Everyday Items Used and Abused to Get High

Warning: It is incredibly dangerous to use household items to get high.


Using household items to get high is dangerous and can be life threateningThe dangers of drug abuse and the risks associated with the desire to get high don’t just exist outside the front door. Properly maintaining the health and well-being of teens and children includes what’s going on inside the house.

Today’s modern home is filled with items that contain chemicals, compounds, vapors, fumes, and other undesirables. Many of these are ingredients your children can use to get an easy high on the cheap. While the combination of easy access and low price may seem appealing, getting high on household items carries serious health risks, not the least of which is sudden death.

Most of the household items that get you high exist in four rooms: the bathroom, the kitchen, the garage and the office. Let’s start with the bathroom, the room that quite possibly holds the greatest danger, a danger that lurks behind a behind a door that can’t be locked.

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The Trouble With Cough Medicine

Stop: Don’t Use Cough Medicine to Get High

It’s no secret the medicine cabinet contains items that are very dangerous if used incorrectly. While most of us are especially vigilant in keeping prescription medicines out of the wrong hands, are we as careful with more everyday items like cough and allergy medicine?

New data shows that about 3.1 million people in the United States have used over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines to get high at least once in their lifetime. This trend is especially prevalent among 12 to 25-year-olds. Surprisingly, that’s almost two times more than those who have tried methamphetamines.

The abuse of cough syrup has been a problem for decades. Dextromethorphan (DXM), a compound found in more than 70 over-the-counter cough medicines, was first approved by the FDA more than half a century ago for OTC use. DXM is safe and has no side effects when used in small doses.

DXM produces an extremely disorienting highUnfortunately, when taken in large quantities DXM produces an extremely disorienting high. As a result, this common ingredient has become a popular alternative to more expensive street drugs.

The effects of DXM can typically last up to 6 hours. This will vary depending on how much DXM is ingested and if there are other substances ingested with it. When combined with alcohol or stimulants, DXM is even more dangerous.

In many cases products with DXM also contain other compounds, such as acetaminophen. When taken regularly in large amounts, acetaminophen can severely damage the liver.

At high doses, DXM has been compared to phencyclidine or PCP. Both are considered dissociative substances that can cause the user to feel detached from reality and have what is akin to an out-of-body experience.

When DXM is abused at high doses for a prolonged period of time, it can result in a mental condition called chemical psychosis. In this state, the user loses all contact with reality and may require immediate hospitalization to prevent harm to themselves or others.

In addition to the mental dangers of DXM, expect the following physical side effects: 

  • Fluctuating body temperature
  • Heavy sweating or cold sweats
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Decreased motor skills
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated heartbeat
  • Drowsiness

As modern medicine becomes more complex, teens are able to access these products in increasingly diverse ways. There are now alternatives to just drinking the syrup. DXM is available in capsule, pill and powder forms.

The combination of ease of access and diverse delivery method has made cough syrup especially dangerous. In 2008 alone there were almost 8,000 emergency room visits as a result of deliberate DXM overdose.

Unfortunately, cough medicine isn’t the only OTC medicine that should be closely monitored. Allergy medicine also contains compounds that are especially dangerous if ingested in high doses.

Allergy Medicine Abuse

Stop: Abusing Allergy Medicine has Devastating Consequences

Antihistamine abuse has been rising right alongside cough medicines. Allergy medicines represent yet another front in the battle over household items that get you high. Products such as Benadryl contain a powerful antihistamine called Diphenhydramine, a compound that is used at normal doses to treat non-nasal symptoms of allergic reactions.

One of the common side effects of normal Benadryl use is drowsiness. This sedation effect is intensified when the drug is taken in large doses.

One Reddit user described getting high on Benadryl this way:

“You will enter a realm where you will see things that are not real and have absolutely no mechanism for determining what’s real and what isn’t. There is no introspection here. There are no cool textural marks … an impending sense of doom will mark your trip.”

This certainly doesn’t sound like a positive experience. Antihistamine drugs carry great risk when ingested in high doses, whether for the first time or repeatedly.

Beyond heavy sedation, antihistamine abuse comes with the following side effects:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth

These side effects are merely the short-term consequences of abusing antihistamine medicines. More long-term side effects include glaucoma, seizures, an enlarged prostate, and cardiovascular disease.

allergy medicine abuse

Ensuring the medicine cabinet is a safe place for teens and children comes with keeping a close eye on the drugs within. Utilize the following practices to make sure OTC drugs aren’t a household threat:

  • Keep a close eye on how much medicine is in each bottle.
  • Don’t buy extra OTC drugs just for the sake of “stocking up.”
  • Don’t allow children or teenagers to have possession of OTC drugs.
  • Be open about the dangers of abusing OTC drugs.

Along with OTC medications, mouthwashes and perfumes should also be closely monitored. Products like Listerine and many popular perfumes and colognes contain ethanol, which can be very dangerous when ingested in large doses.

The Emerging Drug: Bath Salts

Bath Salts Cause Brain Damage from the First Use

There are two types of bath salts available. The first is the kind used in a relaxing bath and the second is the kind sold on the street. Unfortunately, both varieties look very similar and carry similar ingredients. Since the terms are the same from street to home, it might be easy for teens to hear the term “bath salts” and decide that whatever is beneath the bathroom sink is safe to get high on.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Ingesting bath salts, whether by snorting, eating or smoking, is incredibly dangerous, whether it’s the real or illegal variety.

Many bath salts contain a compound called mephedrone or methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). These compounds produce a meth-like high that could have severe side effects.

bath salt high effects

Though many of the chemicals used to make bath salts are now heavily regulated, the risk remains. Always make sure bath salts are safely tucked away and their levels monitored.

With the bathroom secured, it’s time to move on to other areas in the house. The kitchen, quite possibly one of the happiest places in the home, contains as many culinary delights as it does potentially dangerous household items.

Eating Nutmeg to Get High

It is Easy and Dangerous to Overdose on Nutmeg

Nutmeg can add the perfect touch to holiday eggnog or warm apple pie. While winter’s favorite spice is always sure to bring holiday cheer, danger lurks in unsuspecting places. Nutmeg abuse was common in the early 1900s and wasn’t much known until the Internet age provided it with new exposure.

Nutmeg contains myristicin, a natural compound that can produce hallucinogenic effects if taken in doses of around five teaspoons. The appeal quickly wears off when one realizes the high can last up to two days and comes with some nasty side effects.

Within 30 minutes of a large dose expect:

  • Severe gastrointestinal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Tingly skin sensations

When taking large amounts of nutmeg, it may take hours for auditory hallucinations to kick in. This could result in increased overdose risk if the user thinks they haven’t taken enough.

If nutmeg was a surprise, the kitchen dangers don’t end there. You may be surprised to learn that items you cook with, outside of cooking sherry and wines, contain large amounts of ethanol.

Vanilla Extract Contains Ethanol

Consuming Excess Vanilla Extract Causes Stomach Pain and Respiratory Distress

The spice cabinet contains another item to watch for: vanilla extract. Though it may be a crucial ingredient in many a breakfast or dessert, the bottle of vanilla extract contains approximately 35 percent ethanol by volume, which is more than many alcoholic beverages.

Though ethanol in large doses produces side effects very similar to its cousin, alcohol, it carries much greater health risk. Large amounts of vanilla extract, food colorings or any other kitchen products that contain ethanol carry serious side effects ranging from gastrointestinal pain to respiratory distress.

The physical signs of ethanol intoxication include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Flushed skin
  • Hypotension
  • Vomiting

The final kitchen dangers combine with household items in the garage and office space. This next category of everyday items used to get high is one of the largest and, quite possibly, one of the most dangerous.

The Cheap and Deadly High: Inhalants

Inhalants are Extremely Dangerous and Potentially Deadly from the First Use

Alongside OTC medications, inhalants represent the largest category of everyday items used to get high. Inhalant abuse is the intentional breathing of a gas or vapor for the sole purpose of getting high.

Recent data shows that the following age groups have abused inhalants at least once in the past year:

  • 10.1% of 8th graders
  • 5.6% of 10th graders
  • 1.5% of 12th graders

Inhalant abuse carries the greatest danger at the younger ages. Since these products are so readily available within the household, they are especially dangerous to toddlers and teens.

Unfortunately, there are over a thousand household products that can be used as inhalants. These products transcend any one room and are quite varied.

05_motor-functionCommon household items that are used as inhalants and are extremely dangerous include:

  • Nail polish remover
  • Canned air
  • Rubber cement
  • Spray paint
  • Paint thinners
  • Felt-tip markers
  • Air fresheners
  • Butane
  • Cooking spray
  • Whipped cream cartridges or cans

Almost any product that is in a pressurized container can be used as an inhalant. Products such as glue, markers, and rubber cement may not be pressurized, but they still produce powerful vapors that are extremely dangerous when inhaled.

Even though many of these products have different ingredients, they all produce similar effects. Expect limited brain function, decreased motor skills and slurred speech.

Other common side effects of inhalants include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Gastrointestinal pain
  • Violent mood swings
  • Numbness
  • Decreased motor skills
  • Tingling of the body
  • Nausea
  • Hearing loss
  • Slow reflexes

Serious and potentially irreversible side effects include liver, kidney, bone marrow, nervous system, and brain damage. Inhalants also produce high levels of anxiety and paranoia.

Sudden Sniffing Death SyndromeInhalants interfere with the body’s cardiovascular system and carry significant dangers for the heart. Where prior heart conditions may exist, the use of inhalants can result in the worst possible consequence of all: Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome (SSDS).

Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome is heart failure that results from stress or strenuous activity after abusing inhalants. Research has shown the chemicals in the inhalant can cause the heart to become highly sensitive to the effects of a sudden surge of adrenaline.

This is why an extremely elevated heart rate is one of the first and most dangerous, symptoms of inhalant abuse. Generally, the user will have been startled or has engaged in rigorous activity immediately following inhalant abuse. Once the surge of adrenaline hits an already excited heart, collapse and sudden death could follow.

Keeping a close eye on such a large number of potentially harmful household items isn’t always easy. The second step in keeping your children safe is noticing any potential warning signs that signal they could be getting high on household items.

Know The Warning Signs

Many household items that get you high carry similar physical side effects. These side effects can be obvious evidence of household item abuse. Always keep an eye for common physical side effects such as dilated pupils, sweating and flushed cheeks.

In addition to the physical signs, watch for the following behavioral clues:

  • Sudden defiance
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Constant irritability
  • Change in personal hygiene
  • Loss of appetite
  • Strange chemical smell

Also, take note if your teen begins to become socially withdrawn from family or close friends. One thing to remember when monitoring children for household item abuse is not to react in a way that would exacerbate a potential health risk.

If you encounter someone who is high on a household item, react carefully and keep the following tips in mind:

  • Remain calm and don’t raise your voice.
  • Don’t excite or argue with the abuser.
  • Calmly ask questions to determine what was used and in what amounts.
  • If the person is unconscious, call for help and begin CPR.
  • If the person is conscious, be sure to keep them calm and, once recovered, seek help.

Remember, it’s never too early to talk to your kids about the dangers of using household items to get high. Anyone can say “oh my kid would never do that,” but do we really know?

What If My Child Has Used Everyday Items to Get High?

Many of these products are now sold online in their pure forms. Monitoring your child’s Internet use is more important than ever considering the ease of access it provides to those looking to get their hands on dangerous substances.

In many cases, these products can be just as dangerous to toddlers and small children who do not know any better, let alone teenagers trying to get high. Ensure these products are properly stored and that their levels are constantly monitored.

If your child is using any of these items to get high, staging an intervention is the first step in getting them help. The professionals at 12 Keys are here to help you plan and carry out a successful intervention.

12 Keys Rehab is here to help

If you or someone you love is getting high on household items, look for one of the best rehab centers to get help. 12 Keys’ Florida rehabs can help you or loved one get back on track. Our experienced and compassionate staff is ready to take your call.

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