Six dangerous drugs your children can buy online

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

In previous generations, it was big news if someone knew someone whose cousin might know where to buy some drugs. Everyone talked about it, but nobody ever seemed to really know anyone.

But now it seems drugs are freely available to anyone, anywhere, and our kids don't even need to know anyone's cousin. All they need is access to the internet.

They don't have to take the risk of meeting up with a shady stranger, or even leave their home. They just order it online and try to get to the mailbox before you.

The recent mass overdose of seven students from St Stephen's College taking Phenibut they sourced online was a reminder of just how freely teens can access illegal drugs, and how dangerous they can be.

Dr Owen Bowden-Jones has opened a clinic in the UK aimed specifically at helping those addicted to taking drugs they've sourced online. He told The Guardian, "The internet has really transformed the patterns of people's drug use. It sanitises the buying of drugs."

The problem with drugs bought illegally online, apart from the risk of getting caught, is that it is difficult to verify the quality and composition of the drug being bought.

Some websites claim to offer pharmaceutical grade products, and others have stock images of people in white coats looking credibly medical. Some sites even offer a star rating system, but none of these features can guarantee the product being bought is what they say it is, or what else has been added to the substance. And unfortunately, teens can be massive risk takers.

"[Teenagers are] still developing and maturing physically, psychologically, emotionally and neurologically," says University of Queensland clinical psychologist Dr Sasha Lynn. "It is a prime time for risk taking and impulsive behaviour as those core parts of the brain responsible for such important functions is still developing. The draw of peers and influence can prove to be a dangerous mix."

Drugs Australian teens are commonly buying include:

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1. Phenibut

Relatively unknown until the St Stephen's College incident, Phenibut is a Russian drug recently banned in Australia due to health concerns over withdrawal and overdose. The drug is an anti-anxiety medication but is said to have an effect similar to illicit drugs such as Fantasy or GHB.

2. Xanax and Valium

More anti-anxiety drugs that can be used by teens to self-medicate or for recreational purposes. They act as a depressant, which can be a way of slowing down. Some teens mistakenly believe that because these are legal drugs – when used with a prescription – they are safer than taking other drugs.

3. Oxycontin

​This painkiller is usually available by prescription and is sometimes used by teens to numb pain or anxiety. The body can develop a resistance to oxycontin over time so the amount needed to achieve the same feeling will increase, and it can be addictive.

4. Ritalin and Aderall  

These prescription drugs which are used medically to treat ADHD are often taken recreationally because they stimulates chemical neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine, offering a high. Aderall also contains amphetamine which gives users a burst of energy.

5. Marijuana

Often seen as a softer drug, marijuana use can still be damaging to children, with the potential to affect learning ability, attention, memory, coordination, balance, judgement and decision making.

6. Party drugs such as ecstasy, speed, cocaine

Because these drugs are mixed by each individual supplier, there is no way to know the strength of each batch, and what else has been mixed in with it to create the substance being bought. Even batches from the same supplier can vary wildly in composition, making overdoses and adverse side effects a real danger.

Drugs can be bought from sites on the Dark Web, a part of the internet only accessible by special software, allowing users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable. The Dark Web is big business, with estimates $300,000-$500,000 worth of drugs are sold on there every day.

The most common browser used to access the Dark Web is called Tor. If your child has Tor on their computer, you at least have reason to ask questions about why they need it. There are solutions available that help you block the use of Tor, such as ContentBarrier. Drugs are often purchased using BitCoin because it's an untraceable way of making payment.

But access to the Dark Web isn't necessary to buy drugs. Even social media can be used to hook up with dealers now, as one mum recently found out. Marianne* found out her sons Max* and Billy* were buying marijuana from a friend of their older stepbrother, that they met through Facebook.

Fortunately Max and Billy, they were logged in on their sister's iPad and forgot to log out, so she saw the entire conversation and took it straight to Marianne, who reported her sons to the police.

"We called our local police station and talked to the sergeant," explained Marianne. "He told us to bring the boys down. Both were under 17 at the time (children at 17 are considered adults in the eyes of the law in Queensland). They were both interviewed and the fear of God put into them over a couple of hours. Real cops giving them real stories of what they had witnessed and how people end up."

Dr Lynn says if you suspect your child is buying drugs online, it's important to encourage open communication. "I'd recommend not being punitive or panicking, but having an open and honest conversation," she says.

"Using 'I' statements to keep the child in a position where they're more likely to open up, as opposed to using 'you' statements (that is, YOU are doing something wrong), which can lead to defensiveness and shutting down.

"If things have been progressing, seek help and support from qualified professionals."

*Names have been changed.