7 Things Parents Need to Know About Betel Nuts

Never heard of the betel nut? You're not alone. Here's what you need to know.

Ohio police recently caught teens using betel nuts to get high. If adolescents in one part of the country have discovered a new way to get high, you can bet others will soon follow suit. This incident left many parents asking if the substance is a threat to their teens. Good question.

Fast Facts on Betel Nuts

As new substances appear in adolescent circles, it's important for parents to remain informed. With that in mind, here are the quick betel nut facts:

  • #1 It's Been Around for a Long Time
    While it may be a “new” drug to American teens, the betel nut has a long history of use for mood-enhancing effects. It isn’t as wellknown in the US, but betel nut is the fourth most popular psychoactive substance worldwide. More than 600 million people use it.
  • #2 It Comes From a Plant
    Betel nut is the seed of a palm plant that grows in Southeast and South Asia. It’s commonly used in these parts of the world as an energy boost for laborers working long hours. Its natural alkaloids release adrenaline, causing feelings of euphoria. In some cultures, it has become a part of religious rituals. It has also been used as an herbal remedy for treating issues such as toothaches and acne. Some believe it has an aphrodisiac effect.
  • #3 It Is Addictive
    Betel nut isn’t a controlled substance. However, medical reviews have concluded it’s an addictive substance with harmful effects that can lead to dependency and withdrawal symptoms.
  • #4 It’s Considered Poisonous
    The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put the nut on its Poisonous Plants Database. The FDA doesn’t consider the betel nut safe for chewing or eating.
  • #5 It Causes Cancer
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published warnings that betel nut is associated with oral cancer, oral submucous fibrosis (an incurable jaw disorder), reproductive issues and chemical dependency. Many studies have linked betel nut use to cancer of the mouth and esophagus.
  • #6 It’s Detrimental to Your Body
    Betel nut use has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity.
  • #7 It Wrecks Your Smile
    Chewing betel nut can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Long-term use stains teeth a deep red or black. Heavy betel nut use creates an addiction-revealing smile.

Applying the Facts

The betel nut’s wide acceptance across the globe may cause teens to downplay its dangers. Often viewed as “natural” or “harmless,” the betel nut is anything but. Just ask the thousands of Asian betel-nut users suffering from oral cancer.

To protect your teen from the harms of betel nut use, talk to them. As with any other drug, it’s essential to educate them about the risks involved. Don’t wait until you see red stains on their teeth. Be proactive. One impactful conversation could save your teen’s life.



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