According to the annual Monitoring the Future survey, the rate at which teens abuse ADHD drugs is remaining steady at around 7 percent. While the number of teens abusing other prescriptions has gone down a little bit over the last year, use of the drugs to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder has not budged. Teens most often report abusing drugs like Adderall and Ritalin in order to study more effectively or to stay up late to write papers. What they don’t realize is that this practice is risky and dangerous.
What may be most frightening for parents regarding ADHD drug abuse is that it tends to be the more academically-inclined students who are doing it. Don’t think that your straight-A teen is immune. ADHD medications are powerful stimulants and they are sold to teens as study aids. They are promised to help you stay up late, concentrate and study more effectively. Many teens feeling academic pressure give in to these promises and start abusing the drugs in the hopes of getting better grades.
ADHD Drugs Are Amphetamines
The medications used to treat ADHD, like Ritalin, Adderall and others, are stimulants and usually in the amphetamine class of drugs. Although, paradoxically, they help most children with ADHD calm down, these stimulants actually increase metabolism and energy. They cause blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate to go up. They also decrease appetite and sleep. When these types of drugs are abused or are not used under the direction of a doctor, they can cause serious health problems. High doses can lead to cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes. They can cause the body to become overheated and dehydrated. Addiction is also a side effect. Amphetamines are considered addictive when not taken as directed by a doctor. It can be extremely difficult to stop abusing amphetamines without treatment for this addiction.
Is Your Teen Abusing ADHD Drugs?
How can you know if your teen is experimenting with or even regularly using these so-called study aids? The most important way in which you can be aware of what your teen is up to, and to be able to tell if she is abusing drugs, is to be involved in her life and to have strong, open communication. If you have this kind of relationship, you will know when something isn’t right. Any kind of behavioral or emotional changes that you can’t explain could be a sign of drug abuse. More specifically, if your teen is abusing ADHD drugs, you may notice that she feels pressured to do well at school. She may stress too much about her grades and feel like she has to get straight A’s. You may also notice her staying up later than usual or acting like she has more energy than normal. She may be eating less and losing weight. Some other signs of amphetamine use include paranoia, hostility and aggression, headaches, nausea, blurred vision, hallucinations, changes in sexual behavior, reduced inhibitions in social settings and skin problems. Some people on amphetamines act like they can do anything or conquer the world. Abusing ADHD drugs is a serious thing. If you suspect your teen might be doing it, intervene right away before she suffers the physical, mental and even legal consequences. And don’t forget to monitor your college-aged child. It’s not just high school students who are abusing these medications. Have a conversation with your teen now, even if you don’t suspect abuse. It may help her make a better decision about using drugs in the future.