While it’s helpful to research trends and look up statistics about drug use, it’s also valuable to hear from a counselor who has “boots on the ground” in the city where you live and can share first-hand knowledge from working with those who are abusing substances. For this reason, we want to share the insights Clayton has gained specifically by working with young adults in and around the Houston area who are struggling with teen substance abuse issues.  

Clayton Goldberg is a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC), and he is the newest member of the counseling team at Kagey Family Counseling. Clayton brings with him a wealth of knowledge and a passion for working with adolescents (13 years old and up), young adults (18-25 years old), and adults of all ages whom he sees in private practice at Kagey Family Counseling. Clayton is also the primary counselor for Linda’s new Positive Recovery Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) in the Energy Corridor of Houston which provides treatment for adults 18 years of age and older. 

Concentrated THC

One of the significant teen substance abuse trends Clayton has seen has to do with which substances teens are using the most. While there are many mind-altering chemicals to choose from, one of the preferred drugs that is being widely abused is THC – but not necessarily in the form of “weed” or “pot.” 

While smoking pot has not vanished, young people are turning to THC in highly concentrated doses in the form of waxes (dabs) and oils instead. In comparison to weed/pot that is smoked in a joint or bowl, THC waxes/dabs and oils are consumed with a DAB pen that can be purchased online or at a smoke shop. DAB pens are pen-style vaporizers which allow the user to vape the wax or oil, and they are discreet and easy to use. Because vaping does not produce smoke and is practically odorless, teens can use them almost anywhere without being detected; a fact that makes their use even more appealing. 

In addition, the concentration of THC is very high in the waxes/dabs and oils. Compared to the typical 18% THC in traditional weed, these dabs contain approximately 60% THC, which makes the “high” more powerful, tolerance levels to increase quickly, and an accelerated rate of addiction, especially for young people with still-developing minds and bodies. Here’s a quick page of facts from the DEA’s website – Just Think Twice.

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Related substances that have been around for a while but are still popular with teens are synthetic cannabinoids. These are man-made, mind-altering chemicals that are most commonly sprayed on dried, shredded plant materials. They can be consumed with vape pens or can be brewed as teas. They’re referred to as ‘synthetic THC’ because they act on the same receptors in the brain as THC, even though they are not derived from marijana plants. Because of ths, many young people assume these drugs are harmless because they believe them to be “natural.” However, the only “natural” ingredient is the dried plant materials they’re mixed with. 

While they are marketed under a large variety of brand names, the most common names are: Kush, K2, Spice, Joker, Kronic, and Black Mamba. One of the big dangers of these drugs is that so little is known about what is in them (the chemical make-ups keep changing) so detox protocols are evasive and the effects they’ll have on the user are often unknown until the drug is consumed. However, because they don’t show up as easily as other drugs on drug tests, they are popular with teens, despite the fact they are addictive and can be deadly. Get more facts here.


Another substance that Clayton said is attractive to teens is Kratom, also known as Baik, Ketum, Kakuam, and Ithang. Kratom is currently legal in the United States and can be easily purchased online, at some supplement stores, and at head shops. However, Kratom is not legal in Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, and several European Union countries, and its legality is very controversial in the US.

The active ingredients in Kratom are the alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, which are psychoactive drugs and are present at levels similar to  those in opium and hallucinogenic mushrooms. Using Kratom can cause effects similar to both opioids and stimulants depending on how high of a dose is consumed. At lower doses, Kratom acts more like a stimulant, and at higher doses, it produces sedating and calming effects. 

While Kratom can be consumed in the form of pills, capsules, extracts, or gums, the leaves are commonly brewed and ingested as tea. It is also difficult to detect on drug tests, making it a favorable drug for young people—especially those who are being tested regularly at home or in treatment programs. 

LSD (Acid) and MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)

Clayton has also noticed that psychedelics such as LSD and MDMA are popular among young people today. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they are another set of substances that are difficult to detect on urine drug screens. They are also easy to conceal and do not produce aromas that can be detected like smoking weed or drinking alcohol. While these drugs have been around for decades, they have not lost their appeal for young people wanting to get high. 

The Classics

While the substances mentioned above are the drugs Clayton has noted as being used most prevalently among adolescents in the last few years, the classics such as alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, methamphetamine (meth), adderall, opioids, heroin, and xanax (and other benzodiazepines) are still popular among young users. Clayton said he has noticed that one of the main things that influences which substances adolescents use is which ones are most readily available to them—those they can afford and which ones can be easily accessed. So the favorability of each substance can shift from school to school or neighborhood to neighborhood depending on socioeconomic circumstances of the area or the adolescent’s family.

Now That I Have This Information, What Do I Do?

The goal of this article has been to reveal to you what Clayton has learned and seen while working with young people who are battling addiction in and around the city of Houston. If you are concerned that your teen may be using substances, our hope is this information has helped you to:

  • Become informed about the substances that teens are using today
  • Gain knowledge of the forms these drugs come in, how they are being used, and the various names they go by
  • Raise your awareness about social media platforms that are being used to sell and buy drugs to adolescents
  • Be able to have an honest conversation with your kids if you suspect they may be using mind-altering substances. 

Being able to have an open conversation is the first step to getting your child help. If professional support is needed, there are many treatment options available in Houston. We welcome you to call Clayton directly and speak with him about any questions or concerns you may have. Clayton is available for one-on-one counseling and is committed to treating the family as well as the individual. He likens his approach to how one would respond when they are having car trouble – “If something is wrong with the engine, you don’t just take the engine in for repairs, you take the whole car in.” 

We hope you will reach out to Clayton to learn more! And if your adolescent needs a different level of care or approach to treatment, he has a wealth of information and resources he can share with you about where to go and what to do next. 

The most important thing to us at Kagey Family Counseling is that you and your family get the help you need. We are here to support and encourage you on the path of recovery in any way we can. 

Please reach out to us for a free 15-minute phone consultation.  We’re happy to discuss your specific needs and answer any questions you have. Here’s how to reach us:

Call our office to speak with Clayton or our other counselors at 832-928-0211.

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If you’re over the age of 18 and might need an Intensive Outpatient or Partial Hospitalization Program, please call us at (346) 355-039.

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