Hidden dangers of the herbal high
It’s not just the well-known drugs that pose a threat to teens. Look out for these seemingly harmless names.

Although our teens are able to get their hands on heroin, cocaine and LSD, many are deterred by the consequences if they get caught. They are also afraid of becoming addicted or having a bad trip. 

Unfortunately, there is an entirely different spectrum of drugs available that appear harmless because they are natural or plant-based. Teens love experimenting with some of these inexpensive herbal highs and you need to know what's potting (no pun intended).

The facts

If you thought marijuana was the only plant you could get high on, you would be wrong. 

For vulnerable teens, herbal drugs seem like the perfect solution. Teens often take more natural drugs than their bodies can cope with, simply because they think they are harmless. They don't realise that even if not often physically addictive, they are certainly psychologically addictive.

What's out there

Name of drug:
Alternate names: MCAT, meow-meow
Mephodrone is a synthetic form of cathinone, the active ingredient found in khat (a plant in East Africa that is traditionally brewed in tea).
It is available in pills, capsules or white powder.
Legal in SA? Yes – but only with a doctor's prescription.

Name of drug: Sub-coca dragon
This is a new drug that produces a similar high to mephedrone.
Legal in SA? No

Name of drug: Marijuana
Alternate names: Weed, Dagga, Pot, Ganja, Hash
This drug is either smoked or eaten and makes you feel relaxed, talkative and heightens your senses.  It can also lead to paranoia and can permanently affect your short-term memory.
Legal in SA? No

Name of drug: Magic mushrooms
Alternate name: Shrooms
There are almost 200 types of mushrooms with hallucinogenic effects.  They are typically dried and sold in a "bankie".
Legal in SA? No

Name of drug: Salvia Divinorum
Alternate name: Diviner's Sage
A drug derived from the mint plant, used by Mexican shamans to achieve altered states of consciousness. It is often chewed or smoked with marijuana.
Legal in SA? Yes

Name of drug: Trichocereus pachanoi
Alternate name: San Pedro Cactus
Legal in SA? Yes

Name of drug: Lophophora Williamsii
Alternate name Peyote Cactus
Legal in SA? Yes

Name of drug: Sceletium tortuosum
Alternate names: Bushman's Ecstasy, African Ecstasy, Herbal Ecstasy, Kanna, Kougoed
This drug is either smoked or eaten and makes you feel relaxed, talkative and heightens your senses.  It can also lead to paranoia and can permanently affect your short-term.
Legal in SA? Yes

Name of drug: Funk pills
These pills contain benzylpiperazine (BZP), a stimulant which can produce euphoria.
Legal in SA? Yes - pills containing BZP can be bought with a prescription.  However, many teens are illegally purchasing.

Name of drug: Midnight Flight
Contains the stimulant ephedrine and complex vitamins.
Legal in SA? No - However, it was legal until very recently.

What to do

The most important thing you can do is to educate yourself and your children.  You need to be aware of what is going on and have a serious talk with your teen, even if you don't think they are involved in any way.

Be aware that some of these drugs can easily be bought online, and be aware of any packages that arrive for your teen.

It is important that they understand the risks of these drugs, even although they are ‘natural’.  If they don't understand how a plant can be dangerous, remind them that deadly nightshade is natural too.

Are you aware of any herbal drug use among your teen’s classmates? Do you think it’s okay?

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