Prescription stimulant drugs are designed to help improve focus, concentration, and mood in individuals struggling with a specific set of conditions, including respiratory disorders, ADD, ADHD, narcolepsy, and sometimes depression. When used recreationally, stimulants can affect the mind and make someone feel happier, more motivated, and more awake.
The most commonly abused prescription stimulants include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®), methylphenidate (Ritalin® and Concerta®), and amphetamines (Adderall®). Methamphetamine, both in prescription form (Desoxyn®) and in illicit form are also common stimulants. Drugs like cocaine and crack cocaine are also considered stimulants and are still widely available in certain places in the US.
Amphetamines – amphetamines like Adderall are commonly used as “study aids” and can be highly addictive. Adderall is also prescribed to teens with ADHD and can reduce their hyperactivity. It can, however, induce hyperactivity in teens without ADHD.
Methamphetamine – methamphetamine is double methylated phenylethylamine and is a more powerful stimulant that can lead to brain damage, neurotoxicity, and death by overdose.
Cocaine – extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, cocaine is usually sold in powder form, and also has its medical uses specifically as a topical analgesic.
Diet Pills – some illegal or imported diet pills are made with stimulants, because of their appetite-reducing properties. These diet pills are highly dangerous because they can quickly become addictive, and because the dosage isn’t properly regulated, they can also lead to an overdose.
Ritalin – an alternative ADHD drug to Adderall, Ritalin is a mild CNS stimulant, but can still be addictive. It’s also used to treat narcolepsy.
Caffeine – caffeine is a very mild stimulant, more dangerous in its pure and concentrated form than in naturally-occurring beverages and foods like guarana, tea, and coffee. Caffeine supplements and medications such as Vivarin can be abused for their stimulating effects, but caffeine addiction is very rare.
MDMA – also known as ecstasy or molly, this drug is often circulated around raves and parties and has even been promoted by some as “not harmful”. Despite these suggestions, MDMA is still dangerous. Like other illegal drugs, MDMA is likely to be mixed with a number of other drugs, including other stimulants and hallucinogens. Even in its pure form, it is often taken with alcohol or overused, leading to unpredictable psychological side-effects and overdoses.
Despite the fact that research possibly suggests otherwise, a lot of teens think of stimulants as a great way to “supercharge” the brain with little downsides. Many teens would love to have more focus, feel less tired, and have the motivation necessary to blast through all their assignments, take on more classes and responsibilities, pull ahead in grades and land the marks necessary to ensure a successful future. At other times, stimulants might be distributed as exciting party favors to teens looking to fit in with the crowd, do what their friends are doing, and generally feel happier and less stressed out. Some factors that help cause teen stimulant abuse include:
Stress and competition – in an environment where other kids are already using drugs to get ahead, the pressure to use drugs to continue keeping up with academic demands intensifies. Kids are taught to take responsibility and work hard for their future, and some might take that to mean that it’s okay to do whatever it takes to succeed. However, stimulants are not a guarantee of better grades. In fact, the science suggests that while amphetamines and stimulants keep you awake, their effects on learning are negligible at best.
Pain and depression – it may seem like most stimulants are used for self-improvement, but sometimes, stimulant abuse can also start or turn into a way to cope with personal fears and depressive thoughts, emotional or physical pain, and the stressors that rest in the center of it all, such as family trouble or a traumatic episode in the past.
Sports performance – just like with academic performance, athletes have also been at times convinced to start using amphetamines for a boost of energy during training and in the middle of a game. But that improvement likewise carries a whole load of risk, including getting caught and disgraced for doping and drug use. Yes, stimulants can potentially improve performance (but not always). However, it’s not worth the risk you take, both towards your health and your career. Nevertheless, many teens don’t completely think things through and start using stimulants for sports performance.
teens have abused Ritalin or Adderall at some point in their life
of teens and one-third of parents believe stimulants can improve grades and performance
teens are unfamiliar with the negative side-effects of prescription stimulants
Tell them it’s okay – many teens start using drugs to make it in school, either because they’re struggling to balance their academic responsibilities with their interests and social relationships, or because they feel like they just won’t get by without a little “help”. The hardest lesson for anyone – especially an ambitious teen – is learning that it’s okay to fail the first time around. No matter how much your teen wants to make it through a given course, it’s not worth ruining their life getting there. At the end of the day, grades matter very little. Straight A+ students have been conditioned into maintaining a perfect score throughout their life, even though this sort of tightly-wound pressure is more likely going to cause them to spiral out of control after school rather than land any sort of real-life success. College degrees matter, but the grades we score throughout high school and college don’t. An average or above-average mark is good enough, as long as you show up to work with qualities companies actually are looking for: such as intellect, punctuality, reliability, and drive. Things that aren’t taught or reflected in heavy drug use.
Make it clear that the risks outweigh the benefits – amphetamines aren’t like a cup of coffee or a cold shower in the morning – as much as they can help you be a better athlete or a smarter student, they are much more likely to send your life speeding towards a brick wall than they are to help you reach for the stars. If your teen still thinks the benefits outweigh the risks, they may already be struggling with an addiction. There are ways to success without drug use – in fact, it’s much more likely to succeed in life without a potential criminal record for drug use and possession.
Help them through recovery – not all teens who start abusing prescription drugs will get addicted to them. But some do – and treating an addiction can be a tough journey. Work with your teen and their doctors and therapists to help him or her get the treatment they need and have the patience to help your teen deal with the challenges ahead, including possible relapses and lots of time spent working on cementing the benefits of sobriety, such as steadier relationships, healthy career prospects, and physical wellbeing.
Treating stimulant drug abuse requires intervention, medical attention, and a tailored recovery program that specifically helps a teen tackle the issues that they are facing within their recovery, such as therapy to help address factors that led to the abuse to begin with, as well as various different potential coping mechanisms to help replace stimulants and give teens a better way to deal with life’s stresses.
Heavy drug use can lead to tolerance and addiction. These conditions are separate phenomenon and involve changes in the way your brain and body perceive the drug. Oftentimes, stopping treatment right away – or going clean after months of drug abuse – will lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. These can range from nausea to unconsciousness and chronic headaches. The first step to helping someone tackle their drug abuse is getting them completely clean, helping them through the detoxification process and past the withdrawal symptoms.
Psychotherapy can be an essential tool in teen stimulant abuse treatment, as it helps teens identify why they started using in the first place, and what changes they will have to make to stop using and lead better, healthier lives. Talk therapy can come in many different forms, depending on what a therapist might think is best for a teen patient. One-on-one therapy and group therapy can be equally effective, if employed in the right way.
The recovery process is an ongoing one, and teens need a certain amount of structure and discipline to remain abstinent after a period of drug abuse. Helping a teen maintain a steady schedule is made easier by encouraging them to take up a list of passions and extracurricular activities, join clubs and groups, meet new friends under an athletic or intellectual hobby, and pursue dreams outside of school. Meanwhile, a teen can continue meeting a therapist for additional help or continue to see other recovering addicts at group meetings.
Paradigm Malibu is a treatment center for teens struggling with all sorts of different mental health issues, including drug abuse. At the center of every teen’s struggle with drugs usually lies a complex amalgamation of different issues, having come together to see drug use as a solution to a problem that requires a much more in-depth diagnosis. Through a professional staff, multiple amenities, and a welcoming and nurturing environment, Paradigm Malibu’s teen stimulant abuse treatment process can help teens completely give up their vices and move on towards a better future.
A Drug-Free Environment
The biggest indicator of drug use is the availability of drugs – the easier it is to get to them, the more likely it is that a teen will use them. That’s why the first step to preventing more drug use and helping teens who are struggling with drug abuse is to get them into a drug-free environment. While at Paradigm Malibu, teens can focus entirely on their treatment without the temptation of using again.
Getting to the Roots
Drug use begins as a perceived solution to the problem, but it’s always a notoriously terrible way to cope with things, simply adding to the pile rather than helping a teen sort out their issues. Paradigm Malibu helps teens address why they started using in the first place, be it an underlying condition, or simply a combination of stress and curiosity.
Paradigm dug really deep at getting to the root of my sons addiction issues. They also involved us in the process and worked through a lot of family issues. The staff and councilors were top notch and I felt that my son was in a safe spot even with some of the deep emotional issues he was going through. We continue to go to learn from the councilors and other families even after our sons treatment. It has been a very good experience.
– Dave Z.
What if I’m addicted to stimulants, but I need them for my condition?
It is unlikely but possible to get addicted to stimulants while on treatment for ADHD. The dosages prescribed to teens and children with ADHD are usually too low to elicit an addictive response, but that can change depending on individual susceptibility to stimulants, as well as stimulant abuse while having ADHD (such as purposefully taking a higher dose than intended).
There are nonstimulant alternatives that can be used to treat ADHD, including guanfacine and Clonidine. Antidepressants have also shown promise in the treatment of ADHD symptoms, and they are not addictive in the same way.
Aren’t prescription drugs safer than street drugs? What’s the problem?
The only difference between Adderall and an amphetamine you pick up off the street is that the FDA guarantees that you’re only taking what’s on the package when you take prescription drugs. Prescription drugs taken without a prescription or taken more often than prescribed by the doctor are just as dangerous and even more dangerous in some cases than illegal street drugs.