Illicit Fentanyl


Illicit Fentanyl

Illicit Fentanyl refers to the fentanyl analogues that are designed to mimic the pharmacological effects of the original drug. Illicit fentanyl is produced in clandestine laboratories and mixed with (or substituted for) heroin or cocaine in a powder form.

This type of fentanyl is extremely potent, often more so than the prescription grade fentanyl. Mixing fentanyl with street-sold heroin or cocaine markedly amplifies their potency and potential dangers and is associated with several overdose cases in Canada. 

Fentanyl Facts  1

  • Fentanyl has been mixed with other drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
  • It has been used in tablets made to look like prescription drugs.
  • Overdoses have occurred where individuals were not aware they were consuming fentanyl.
  • It is odourless and tasteless, and therefore hard to detect.
  • It is often found in powder, pill, liquid and blotter form.
  • 2 milligrams of pure fentanyl (the size of about 4 grains of salt) is enough to kill the average adult.
  • Unintentional exposure to pure fentanyl – touching or inhaling – can cause serious harm including death.
  • Fentanyl-related deaths have been increasing in Canada.

It can be difficult to recognize the signs of fentanyl abuse in a young person. Multiple signs of substance abuse combined with drug-seeking or other addictive behaviors may point to illicit use of the drug.

If you think or know that your child is abusing fentanyl or any opiate, get help immediately.  You may also consider keeping an opiate antigonist like Naloxone on hand in case of accidental drug overdose.

Signs of Fentanyl Overdose 

Physical signs of fentanyl overdose include:

  • Severe sleepiness/sedation
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • nausea
  • respiratory arrest
  • Lips and nails turn blue
  • confusion
  • Person is unresponsive or unconscious
  • Gurgling sounds or snoring
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Tiny pupils
  • Drowsiness/respiratory depression
  • coma
  • death

Overdoses of fentanyl should be treated immediately with an opioid antagonist, like Naloxone. 

Medications called opiate receptor antagonists (Naloxone, Naltrexone) act by temporarily blocking the effects of opiate drugs. It’s vital to seek further medical help after administering an opioid antagonist. 

If you see your teen or anyone else in this state, call 911 immediately.


  1. RCMP webpage –

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Anabolic Steroids



Anabolic Steroids

About Steroids

“Steroids” refers to the class of drugs used to treat a wide variety of conditions, from supporting reproduction (e.g., estrogen) and regulation of metabolism and immune function, to increasing muscle and bone mass and treating inflammation and asthma (e.g., cortisone).

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

“Anabolic” steroids are the class of steroids used to increase muscle and bone mass. These drugs are manufactured in a laboratory to imitate the male sex hormone, testosterone. Despite the fact that there are various types of steroids, teens tend to abuse the “anabolic” muscle-building kind.

While anabolic steroids are available legally by prescription, they are most often prescribed to treat conditions that occur when males produce abnormally low amounts of testosterone, which can result in delayed puberty, osteoporosis (weak bones), and impotence. They are also prescribed to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass. However, abuse of anabolic steroids can lead to serious health problems, some irreversible.

Street or Slang Terms for Steroids

Arnolds, gym candy, juice, pumpers, stackers, and weight trainers are all commonly used terms to refer to steroids.

Why Steroids Are Dangerous to Teens

As a parent, you have the challenge of explaining to your teen why use of steroids is a serious issue.

1.  While they are sometimes prescribed to treat medical conditions like cancer, there are significant health risks in using them outside a health professional’s care. Typically, in those situations, the benefits of steroid use under a physician’s supervision outweigh the risks, and they can improve the patient’s quality of life.

2.  Both men’s and women’s bodies produce a certain level of testosterone. When teens take steroids, they are adding more testosterone to their growing bodies, which throws off their hormonal balance.

3.  Since steroids are often taken by injection, there is also increased risk of HIV and/or hepatitis infection from an unsterile needle or syringe.

roids-saleThere are many reasons teens think they should take steroids.  Here are a few natural opportunities to talk to your child about all the reasons they should stay far away from steroids:

  • When your teen gets more involved with competitive sports.
  • If you find your teen is growing more preoccupied with body image, such as wanting to gain more muscle or appear leaner.
  • If you notice your child’s friends are hitting their growth spurts and “filling out.”

Make sure your teen understands that the effects of steroid abuse may include: sterility; damage to the cardiovascular system and liver; increased risk of injury; and disease, such as increased levels of cholesterol, causing a thickening of arterial walls that could ultimately be life threatening.

Signs and Symptoms

If you have reason to believe your teen is abusing steroids, look out for these specific signs and symptoms:

  • Noticeable weight gain, particularly more muscle
  • Hair loss and premature balding
  • Severe acne
  • Mood swings, from depression to aggressiveness
  • Increased injuries, specifically to tendons
  • Yellow tinge to the skin (indicates abnormal liver function)
  • Needle marks in large muscle groups
  • Needles or syringes in your teen’s belongings

If you notice any of this, it’s important to talk with your teen right away and discuss the serious health risks with him. It’s also important that you speak with a family physician. Some health effects are reversible, like acne and mood swings, while others (such as baldness and stunted growth) are not. A doctor should also supervise and help your teen stop taking steroids safely.

Where Do Teens Get Steroids?

Since anabolic steroids are available only by prescription, and because they are regulated like narcotics, anabolic steroid abusers often obtain the drugs illegally. Some of the ways abusers can get steroids include: purchasing steroids manufactured in an illegal drug laboratory, smuggling from other countries, purchasing through Internet sales, or stealing from pharmacies.

Forms of anabolic steroids containing androstenedione or “andro” can be purchased legally without a prescription through many commercial sources, including health food stores. An anabolic steroid precursor is a steroid that the body converts into an anabolic steroid. There is evidence that they may increase the risk of serious, long-term health problems.

How Are Steroids Used?


Anabolic steroids can be taken in the following ways:

  • Injection directly into the bloodstream
  • Swallowed as tablets or capsules
  • Ointments or patches (through the skin)
  • Preparations that are placed between the cheek and gum of mouth

Doses taken by abusers can be up to 100 times more than the doses used for treating medical conditions.

Health Effects

Although steroids do not produce a medically intoxicating effect, abuse of steroids by a growing teen can lead to serious consequences:

Short-term effects

  • Effects vary by individual, but general short-term negative effects for both sexes include hostility, aggression, and acne.
  • Steroids can have a magnified effect on teens since their bodies are still growing. Any unnatural substances, such as anabolic steroids, that are designed to physically alter a body before adulthood, can result in stunting height, and this can be permanent.
  • Males may experience shrunken testicles, difficulty or pain in urinating, become infertile or impotent, development of breasts, hair loss, and increased risk for prostate cancer.
  • Girls can experience an excessive growth of body and facial hair, male-pattern baldness, decreased body fat and breast size, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, and a deepened voice.

Long-term effects
The long-term effects for both males and females are similarly related to extreme stresses to the body. Long-term effects include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of blood clotting
  • Increases in LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Decreases in HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Jaundice (yellowish skin color, tissues, and body fluids)
  • Liver cysts and cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Fluid retention
  • Severe acne

Mental effects
While steroids are not taken as mood-altering drugs, they do have potentially negative psychological effects when abused. Scientific research has shown that aggression and other psychiatric side effects may result from abuse of anabolic steroids. Many users report feeling good about themselves while on anabolic steroids, but researchers report that extreme mood swings also can occur, including hyperactivity or agitation, and uncontrolled aggression (known as “roid rage”), which can lead to violence.

What Is Steroid Withdrawal?

Many steroid abusers feel strong and “happy” when they are using. When they stop, they can experience feelings of depression, which can result in dependence. Researchers also report that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.


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Bath Salts



Bath Salts

Bath Salts sold in small packets or jars with names like Blue Wave, Cloud Nine, and White Lady, are one of the scariest of so called “designer drugs”.

Bath Salts are a troubling addition to a growing list of items that young people can obtain to get high. The synthetic powder is sold legally online and in drug paraphernalia stores under a variety of names, such as Ivory Wave, Purple Wave, Red Dove, Blue Silk, Zoom, Bloom, Cloud Nine, Ocean Snow, Lunar Wave, Vanilla Sky, White Lightning, Scarface, and Hurricane Charlie.

Because these products are relatively new to the drug abuse scene, our knowledge about their precise chemical composition and short- and long-term effects is limited, yet the information we do have is worrisome and warrants a proactive stance to understand and minimize any potential dangers to the health of the public.

These products often contain various amphetamine-like chemicals, such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MPDV), mephedrone and pyrovalerone. These drugs are typically administered orally, by inhalation, or by injection, with the worst outcomes apparently associated with snorting or intravenous administration.
Mephedrone is of particular concern because, according to the United Kingdom experience, it presents a high risk for overdose.

These chemicals act in the brain like stimulant drugs (indeed they are sometimes touted as cocaine substitutes); thus they present a high abuse and addiction liability.  Consistent with this notion, these products have been reported to trigger intense cravings not unlike those experienced by methamphetamine users, and clinical reports from other countries appear to corroborate their addictiveness.

They can also confer a high risk for other medical adverse effects. Some of these may be linked to the fact that, beyond their known psychoactive ingredients, the contents of bath salts are largely unknown, which makes the practice of abusing them, by any route, that much more dangerous.

Unfortunately, bath salts have already been linked to an alarming number of ER visits across the country. Doctors and clinicians at poison centres have indicated that ingesting or snorting “bath salts” containing synthetic stimulants can cause chest pains, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia, and delusions.

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Salvia is a potent hallucinogen.  

Salvia (Salvia divinorum) is an herb common to southern Mexico and Central and South AmericaThe main active ingredient in Salvia, is salvinorin A,  a potent activator of kappa opioid receptors in the brain. These receptors differ from those activated by the more commonly known opioids, such as heroin and morphine.

Traditionally, Salvia has been ingested by chewing fresh leaves or by drinking their extracted juices. The dried leaves of Salvia can also be smoked as a joint, consumed in water pipes, or vaporized and inhaled.

Health/Behavioral Effects

People who abuse Salvia generally experience hallucinations or “psychotomimetic” episodes (a transient experience that mimics a psychosis).  Subjective effects have been described as intense but short-lived, appearing in less than 1 minute and lasting less than 30 minutes. They include psychedelic-like changes in visual perception, mood and body sensations, emotional swings, feelings of detachment, and importantly, a highly modified perception of external reality and the self, leading to a decreased ability to interact with one’s surroundings. This last effect has prompted concern about the dangers of driving under the influence of salvinorin. The long-term effects of Salvia abuse have not been investigated systematically although recent experiments in rodents demonstrated deleterious effects of salvinorin A on learning and memory.

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Spice – Synthetic Marijuana



Spice – Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana or Spice refers to a wide variety of plant mixtures that are promoted to produce experiences similar to natural marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as legal and “safe” alternatives.

Synthetic marijuana or Spice, is completely different than natural marijuana.

Spice is considered highly addictive and is widely believed to be more dangerous than the real thing.

Synthetic marijuana is not sold as a single brand, nor does it make use of just one ingredient. It’s sold in cute colourful packages and is marketed as a herbal tobacco, potpourri, or incense, purporting to be an innocent product for scenting rooms and will usually have the warning, “Not for human consumption” on the packet.

The packages contain dried and shredded plant materials that have been sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids – which are responsible for their psychoactive (mind-altering) effects..

Synthetic cannabinoids latch onto the same receptors that THC latches onto in the brain, so they can have an effect similar to THC. However, some synthetic cannabinoids are 100 times stronger than THC and many operate on other brain receptors, too.

Synthetic marijuana and Spice products are often labeled “not for human consumption” and are sold under many names, including K2, Fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Mojo, Scooby Snax, Black Mamba, Annihilation, Moon Rocks, etc.

Spice products are popular among young people; of the illicit drugs most used by high-school seniors, they are second only to marijuana.

Easy access and the misperception that Spice products are “natural” and therefore harmless have likely contributed to their popularity. Another selling point is that the chemicals used in Spice are not easily detected in standard drug tests.

Spice highs can now mimic the effects of amphetamine, cocaine, or psychedelic drugs, with significant negative side effects that can include high blood pressure, blurred vision, heart attack, vomiting, seizures, hallucinations, and severe anxiety, paranoia and psychosis.

Most young users are unaware of the negative effects that synthetic marijuana can have on them. Some have died from their first exposure to the drug.


Vaping the liquid form of synthetic marijuana is a fast growing trend. The increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, and vapour pens in high schools and universities may be the reason behind this shift.

The variety of chemicals may be greater in the liquid forms of synthetic marijuana. Some suspect that a few brands of liquid Spice may contain traces of synthetic psychedelics such as 2C-P.

Much of synthetic marijuana is produced in clandestine labs in China or Russia. Because of the wide variety of chemicals involved and the sloppy manufacturing methods used to produce them, one batch may not be the same as another, increasing the health risks and turning the use of the drug into a game of Russian roulette.

Unlike some countries and U.S. states, Canada hasn’t expressly banned synthetic cannabinoids, although it controls them under the term “similar synthetic preparations” to cannabis.

It may be harder to get Spice in head shops or gas station stores, but synthetic marijuana remains widely available on the Internet.

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Inhalants are common products found right in the home and are among the most popular and deadly substances kids abuse.

Inhalant use can result in death from the very first use. According to the annual Monitoring the Future national poll, approximately one in six children will use inhalants by eighth grade. The same report notes that inhalants are most popular with younger teens. Teens use inhalants by sniffing or “snorting” fumes from containers; spraying aerosols directly into the mouth or nose; bagging, by inhaling a substance inside a paper or plastic bag; huffing from an inhalant-soaked rag; or inhaling from balloons filled with nitrous oxide.

Inhalants are breathable chemical vapours that produce psychoactive (mind-altering) effects. Although people are exposed to volatile solvents and other inhalants in the home and in the workplace, many do not think of “inhalable” substances as drugs because most of them were never meant to be used in that way.

Young people are likely to abuse inhalants, in part, because inhalants are readily available and inexpensive. Parents should see that these substances are monitored closely so that children do not abuse them.

Inhalants fall into the following categories:


  • industrial or household solvents or solvent-containing products, including paint thinners or solvents, degreasers (dry-cleaning fluids), gasoline, and glues
  • art or office supply solvents, including correction fluids, felt-tip-marker fluid, and electronic contact cleaners


  • gases used in household or commercial products, including butane lighters and propane tanks, whipping cream aerosols or dispensers (whippets), and refrigerant gases
  • household aerosol propellants and associated solvents in items such as spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays, and fabric protector sprays
  • medical anesthetic gases, such as ether, chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide (laughing gas)


  • aliphatic nitrites, including cyclohexyl nitrite, which is available to the general public; amyl nitrite, which is available only by prescription; and butyl nitrite, which is now an illegal substance

Health Hazards

Health Effects and Risks.

Nearly all abused inhalants produce effects similar to anesthetics, which act to slow down the body’s functions. When inhaled in sufficient concentrations, inhalants can cause intoxicating effects that can last only a few minutes or several hours if inhalants are taken repeatedly. Initially, users may feel slightly stimulated; with successive inhalations, they may feel less inhibited and less in control; finally, a user can lose consciousness.

Irreversible hazards.

Inhalants are toxic. Chronic exposure can lead to brain damage or nerve damage similar to multiple sclerosis; damage to the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys; and prolonged abuse can affect thinking, movement, vision and hearing.

Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly induce heart failure and death.

Heart failure results from the chemicals interfering with the heart’s rhythm regulating system, causing the heart to stop beating. This is especially common from the abuse of fluorocarbons and butane-type gases. High concentrations of inhalants also cause death from asphyxiation, suffocation, convulsions or seizures, coma, choking or fatal injury from accidents while intoxicated. Other irreversible effects caused by inhaling specific solvents are:

  • Hearing loss – toluene (paint sprays, glues, dewaxers) and trichloroethylene (cleaning fluids, correction fluids)
  • Peripheral neuropathies or limb spasms – hexane (glues, gasoline) and nitrous oxide (whipping cream, gas cylinders)
  • Central nervous system or brain damage – toluene (paint sprays, glues, dewaxers)
  • Bone marrow damage – benzene (gasoline)
  • Liver and kidney damage – toluene- containing substances and chlorinated hydrocarbons (correction fluids, dry- cleaning fluids)
  • Blood oxygen depletion – organic nitrites (“poppers,” “bold,” and “rush”) and methylene chloride (varnish removers, paint thinners)

Prevention. Parents can keep their teens away from inhalants by talking to them and letting them know the dangers of inhalants. Most young users don’t realize how dangerous inhalants can be. Inhalants are widely available and inexpensive, and parents should be mindful about how and where they store common household products.

Parents should be aware of the following signs of an inhalant abuse problem:

  • Chemical odours on breath or clothing;
  • Paint or other stains on face, hands, or clothes;
  • Hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers and chemical-soaked rags or clothing;
  • Drunk or disoriented appearance;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Nausea or loss of appetite;
  • Inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression;
  • Missing household items.
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Stimulants are a broad category of substances that act to increase the level of activity of the central nervous system. Stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy, as well as elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration.


The category includes commonly used substances such as caffeine and nicotine, over-the-counter decongestants, (e.g., pseudoephedrines like Sudafed TM), illegal drugs (e.g., cocaine, methamphetamine), and prescription medications.

The most common use of prescription stimulants is to treat individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Prescription stimulants are also prescribed by doctors to treat conditions such as asthma, respiratory problems, obesity, and the treatment of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.

Examples of Stimulants

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Amphetamines and dextroamphetamine  –  are stimulant drugs whose effects are similar to cocaine.
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that is part of a larger family of amphetamines.
Methylphenidate is a central nervous system stimulant. It has effects similar to, but stronger than, caffeine and less potent than amphetamines.

Street or Slang Terms for Stimulants
Ritz, rippers, dexies, and bennies are commonly used terms to refer to stimulants.

pills and hands(1)

Stimulant Abuse by teens

This class of drug is often abused for its ability to produce euphoric effects or to counteract sluggish feelings induced by tranquilizers or alcohol.
In the hands of teens, stimulants are taken to stay awake, increase alertness and concentration, boost energy, and get high. If they are prescribed drugs for ADHD, teens can save up their pills during the week and share them with friends at weekend parties. Teens and university students also report saving and selling their own ADHD drugs around exam time. Sometimes teens go beyond swallowing these pills, they also crush and snort them, or mix pills with alcohol.


Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Abuse


Do you suspect your teen is abusing stimulants? If so, there are a number of symptoms and side effects to look for:

    • Physical side effects – include dilated pupils; decreased appetite; loss of coordination; collapse; increased heart and respiratory rates; elevated blood pressure;dizziness; tremors; headache; flushed skin; chest pain with palpitations; excessive sweating; vomiting; and abdominal cramps.
    • Psychological side effects  – include feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and delusions;hostility and aggression; and panic, suicidal, or homicidal tendencies. Paranoia, often accompanied by auditory and visual hallucinations, may also occur.

If you have observed any of the symptoms or side effects listed above, be mindful of the possibility of withdrawal or overdoses, as well.

Withdrawal from Stimulants
Withdrawal symptoms associated with discontinuing stimulant use may include depression, disturbance of sleep patterns, fatigue, and apathy.
Potentially dangerous Drug and Alcohol Interactions with Stimulants
Stimulant abuse often goes along with the use of other substances like alcohol, other prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and the use of illegal substances like marijuana.

Did you know?

Alcohol: Teens who use alcohol and stimulants together are likely to drink more before feeling the effects of alcohol because of the stimulant effects; The result? When the stimulant effects wear off, the alcohol kicks in.

Prescription drugs:  Stimulants should only be used in combination with other medications under a physician’s careful supervision.

Over-the-counter drugs:  There are dangers associated with mixing stimulants and over the counter drugs that contain decongestants. Blood pressure can become dangerously high or lead to irregular heart rhythms.

Signs of Stimulant overdose
The symptoms of a sublethal stimulant overdose may include dizziness, tremor, irritability, confusion, hostility, hallucinations, panic, headache, skin flushing, chest pain, palpitations, cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, vomiting, cramps, and excessive sweating.
Overdose or death is preceded by high fever, convulsions, and heart failure.
Since death in these cases is partially due to strain on the heart, physical exercise increases the risks of stimulant use.

If you see your teen or anyone else in this state, call 911 immediately.

DFK offers links to resources in your region to help you and your family find the right kind of help for sedative or depressant dependency or addiction.


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Sedatives/Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants



Prescription sedatives are central nervous system (CNS)depressants, meaning that they depress or slow down the body’s functions.

These medications are mainly used to relieve anxiety and assist with sleep problems. Other medical uses include inducing sedation for surgical and other medical procedures, treatment of alcohol withdrawal, seizure control and relaxation of skeletal muscles.

Often referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers, CNS depressants are substances that can slow normal brain function. Most CNS depressants reduce brain function through a neurotransmitter called gammaaminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that enables communication between brain cells.

brain18996499_M_0 (1)

Prescription sedatives and CNS depressants are usually taken in pill form; however, some are available as suppositories or prepared as a solution for injection.

Sedatives are often prescribed by doctors to treat a variety of health conditions including anxiety and panic attacks, tension, acute stress reactions and sleep disorders. When given in high doses, sedatives may act as anesthesia. Sedatives have the potential for abuse and should be used only as prescribed.

Examples of Depressants

There are three different classes of sedatives: benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine sleep medications and barbiturates.

Barbiturates are a type of depressant often prescribed to promote sleep.

Benzodiazepines are a type of depressant prescribed to relieve anxiety.

Some of the most well known sedatives and CNS depressants are listed below with the names you might find on a prescription label.

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  • Estazolam (ProSom)
  • Zolpidem (Ambien)
  • Zaleplon (Sonata)
  • Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • Mephobarbital (Mebaral)
  • Sodium pentobarbital (Nembutal)
  • Secobarbital (Seconal)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Chlorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Meprobamate (Miltown)
  • Chloral hydrate (Noctec)
  • Ethchlorvynol (Placidyl)
  • Methaqualone (Quaalude)
  • Oxazepam (Serax)
Street or Slang Terms for Sedatives

Benzos, xanies, xani-bars, xani-bombs, and roofies are commonly used terms to refer to sedatives.


Abuse of Sedatives

While different sedatives work in unique ways, they produce a drowsy or calming effect that can help those suffering from anxiety or sleep disorders. Because they can produce a state of intoxication, they have a high potential for abuse.

Some people tamper with the medication to misuse it for the drug’s euphoric effects. Tampering involves changing the form of the medication or the route by which it is taken or both.

Are Teens Abusing Sedatives?

Depressants such as sedatives and tranquilizers have been growing in popularity among teens. In 2007, six percent of U.S. high school seniors reported abusing depressants including Valium and Xanax, compared to four percent in 1995.

Signs and Symptoms of Sedative Abuse

Sedatives and CNS Depressants have the potential for abuse and should be used only as prescribed.

Be on the lookout for these side effects:

  • Physical side effects: include dilated pupils and slurred speech; relaxed muscles; intoxication; loss of motor coordination; fatigue, respiratory depression; sensory alteration; and lowered blood pressure. Teens taking barbiturates may exhibit side effects such as slurred speech, dizziness, sedation, drowsiness, and fever.
  • Psychological side effects: include poor concentration or feelings of confusion; impaired judgment; and lowered inhibitions. Teens on barbiturates may experience depression, fatigue, confusion, and irritability.



If you have observed any of the symptoms or side effects listed above, contact a medical professional immediately.

Withdrawal from Sedatives

Because all CNS depressants work by slowing the brain’s activity, when someone stops taking them, the brain’s activity can rebound and race out of control, possibly leading to seizures and other serious consequences.

Withdrawal symptoms: include anxiety, insomnia, muscle tremors, and loss of appetite. Going “cold-turkey” off of some depressants can have life-threatening complications, cause convulsions, delirium, and in rare instances, death.

If you have observed any of the symptoms or side effects listed above, contact a medical professional immediately.

Potentially dangerous Drug and Alcohol interactions with Sedatives

Woman taking painkillers and alcohol

Sedative abuse is often combined with the use of other drugs like alcohol, other prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and street drugs like marijuana.

Did you know?

Combining these substances can be highly dangerous:

    • Alcohol – Using sedatives with alcohol can slow both the heart and breathing and may lead to death. When combined with alcohol, the effects and risks of depressants are seriously increased.
    • Prescription drugs – Some interactions with other drugs can be risky. Sedatives should be used in combination with other medications only under a physician’s close supervision.
    • Over-the-counter drugs –  Sedatives should not be combined with any other medication or substance that causes central nervous system depression, including some over-the-counter cold and allergy medications. Doing so may slow the heart and breathing, a serious health risk.
Signs of Sedative overdose
Symptoms including shallow breathing, clammy skin, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, coma, or death.

If you see your teen or anyone else in this state, call 911 immediately.

DFK offers links to resources in your area to help you and your family find the right kind of help for sedative dependency or addiction.


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Opioids/ Painkillers



Opioid drugs act by effectively changing the way a person experiences pain.

Commonly referred to as painkillers, Opioids are drugs that contain opium or are derived from and imitate opium. They are prescribed for pain relief and are only available by prescription.

Most opioid or painkilling drug prescriptions are non-refillable and, when used properly under a medical doctor’s supervision, are safe and effective.

Morphine derivatives, or narcotics, come from opioids and are used to therapeutically treat pain, suppress coughing, alleviate diarrhea, and induce anesthesia. When using these narcotics, abusers experience a general sense of well-being by reduced tension, anxiety, and aggression.

Although painkillers have different potencies and are taken in different ways, when they are abused they all pose a risk for addiction and other serious effects.


Examples of Opioid Painkillers

Some of the most well known painkillers are listed below with the names you might find on a prescription label.

Opioid table2


  • Codeine: like morphine, this is found in opium, is weaker in action than morphine, and is used especially as a painkiller.
  • Fentanyl (and fentanyl analogs): a man-made opioid painkiller similar to morphine that is administered as a skin patch or orally.
  • Morphine: the powerful, active ingredient of opium is used as a painkiller and sedative.
  • Opium: from the opium poppy, formerly used in medicine to soothe pain but is now often replaced by derivative alkaloids (as morphine or codeine) or man-made substitutes (opioids).
  • Hydrocodone: often combined with acetaminophen for use as a painkiller. Vicodin (which is not available in Canada, but can be found in the USA) is an example.
  • Oxycodone: a narcotic painkiller, for example Percocet and Percodan.
Street or Slang Terms for Painkillers

Oxies, OC, oxycotton, 80s, percs, vikes, and vikings are commonly used slang terms to refer to painkillers.


Opioid painkillers are the prescription drugs most commonly abused by teens

According to the 2017 CAMH OSDUHS study, one in ten high school students (Grade 7 – 12) reported using a prescription opioid pain reliever at least once during the past 12 months. In Ontario alone that represents 95,000 students.


In Canada as a whole, it’s estimated that approximately 375,000 Canadian students have taken prescription drugs not prescribed to them.

(DFK estimate)

How Do Teens Abuse Painkillers?

There are several ways painkillers can be taken. Most teens report swallowing pills, but they can also be crushed and snorted for an intensified effect.

Signs and Symptoms of Painkiller Abuse

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Short-term effects
Painkillers can cause drowsiness, inability to concentrate, apathy, lack of energy, constriction of the pupils, flushing of the face and neck, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and most significantly, respiratory depression.

Long-term effects
If a teen abuses painkillers for a period of time, he can become addicted to the drug and experience withdrawal symptoms when he stops taking the drug. Associated with addiction is tolerance, which means more and more of the drug or a combination of drugs is needed to produce the same high or euphoric feeling, possibly, leading to overdose.

Due to the physical dependence produced by chronic use of opioid painkillers, teens who are prescribed opioid medications need to be monitored not just when they are appropriately taking the medicine, but also when they stop using the drug to reduce or avoid withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of withdrawal can include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and involuntary leg movements.

Potentially dangerous Drug Interactions
Painkillers should never be used with alcohol, antihistamines, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines.
Since these substances slow breathing, their combined effects could lead to life-threatening respiratory depression.

If you or your teen is already taking a prescribed painkiller, always consult with your physician before taking any other medicine.

Signs of Opioid Overdose

Physical signs of painkiller overdose include pinpoint pupils, cold and clammy skin, confusion, convulsions, severe drowsiness, and slow or troubled breathing.

If you see your teen or anyone else in this state, call 911 immediately.

DFK offers links to resources in your region to help you and your family find the right kind of help for opioid or painkiller dependency or addiction.



Fentanyl is a highly potent prescription painkiller that is linked to an increasing number of deaths in this country.

Many of these overdoses are linked to pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl that is diverted onto the streets and consumed unknowingly by those with addictions and recreational users alike.  However, illicit fentanyl produced in clandestine labs is also responsible for causing overdose deaths. 

Click here for more on illicit fentanyl

Fentanyl is 40 times more powerful than Heroin and 50 to 100 times potent than morphine

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but more potent than morphine. It is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat people with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to opiates.

When prescribed by a physician, Fentanyl is often administered via injection, transdermal patch, or in lozenge form.

In its prescription form, Fentanyl is known as Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze.

Like heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, Fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opiate receptors, highly concentrated in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions. When opiate drugs bind to these receptors, they can drive up dopamine levels in the brain’s reward areas, producing a state of euphoria and relaxation.

Deaths involving Fentanyl

The number of deaths involving Fentanyl has risen in Canada. Between 2009 and 2014,there were at least 655 deaths in Canada where fentanyl was determined to be a cause or a contributing cause. This represents an average of one death every three days over this time period.

Source: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA)

Download the entire CCSA Report “Deaths involving Fentanyl in Canada 2009- 2014


street fentanyl

Fentanyl on the Street

Street names for the drug include Apache, China girl, China white, dance fever, friend, goodfella, jackpot, murder 8, TNT, as well as Tango and Cash.


Mixing fentanyl with street-sold heroin or cocaine markedly amplifies the drugs’ potency and potential dangers. 

Signs of Fentanyl overdose

Physical signs of fentanyl overdose include: Drowsiness/respiratory depression, respiratory arrest, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, unconsciousness, coma and death.
Medications called opiate receptor antagonists act by blocking the effects of opiate drugs. Naloxone is one such antagonist.

Overdoses of fentanyl should be treated immediately with an opiate antagonist.

If you see your teen or anyone else in this state, call 911 immediately.

DFK offers links to resources in your region to help you and your family find the right kind of help for fentanyl abuse.


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Ketamine Hydrochloride



Ketamine Hydrochloride

Ketamine hydrochloride, or “Special K,” is a powerful hallucinogen widely used as an animal tranquilizer by veterinarians. Users sometimes call the high caused by Special K, “K hole,” and describe profound hallucinations that include visual distortions and a lost sense of time, sense, and identity. The high can last from a half-hour to 2 hours. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that overt effects can last an hour but the drug can still affect the body for up to 24 hours.

Use of Special K can result in profound physical and mental problems including delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function and potentially fatal respiratory problems.

Special K is a powder. The drug is usually snorted, but is sometimes sprinkled on tobacco or marijuana and smoked. Special K is frequently used in combination with other drugs, such as ecstasy, heroin or cocaine.

Liquid Ketamine was developed in the early 1960s as an anesthetic for surgeries, and was used on the battlefields of Vietnam as an anesthetic. Powdered Ketamine emerged as a recreational drug in the 1970s, and was known as “Vitamin K” in the 1980s. It resurfaced in the 1990s rave scene as “Special K.”


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