It’s often parents who bring their children into the Mental Health Hospital in a psychotic state. Doctors first work to calm the patients and reassure them while monitoring blood pressure, heart rate and other vitals.
“We’ll talk to the parents who may say, ‘Look, my kid has no history of such behaviors,’ and then I may believe that they may have used a synthetic drug or something,” Buford said. “Then we usually send the parents back home to search their rooms and look for certain products.”
Buford said that synthetic drugs may exacerbate or awaken a genetic predisposition to developing a psychotic disorder. He tells his young patients that their body’s chemistry doesn’t work with the designer drugs they used.
“I say, ‘Look. These things happen, you get psychotic. This is not for you because it’s always going to turn out bad,’ ” he said.
Long-term care may include substance abuse counseling and family therapy. In some cases, if the teenager is also engaging in criminal activity, Buford may suggest parents seek a five-day intervention at a juvenile addiction facility or an even long-term hospitalization.
For Wendy Stephan, the health education coordinator at the Florida Poison Information Center–Miami, housed at Jackson Memorial Hospital, the answer lies in prevention.
“It’s not saying, ‘Don’t do drugs.’ I wish that worked,” she said. “But parents need to have an open dialogue, ask questions, and listen to their kids because kids have knowledge of what’s going on in their circles of friends and in their schools.”
Stephan pointed to toll-free confidential help lines — for both parents and teenagers — to learn about the effects of specific drugs and where to find help. She also warned that although synthetic marijuana and bath salts may be the “hot” new drugs out there, they aren’t the only ones to watch out for.
“The bigger risk for kids now is prescription drug abuse,” she said. “These drugs are very accessible because they’re in parents’ and grandparents’ medicine cabinets. That’s statistically more common among teens than synthetic products.”
Parents should clean out their medicine cabinets of prescription pain medication, such as oxycodone and hydromorphone, and anti-anxiety medication like Alprazolam, Stephan said.
“It seems so practical to keep them but these medicines really present more of a risk ... than they would be helpful to keep around,” she said.