teen drug use

Prescription Stimulant Abuse Often Begins in High School

Posted on April 25th, 2017
Posted in Articles

According to popular belief, prescription stimulant abuse usually begins during a person’s college years. But a new published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence shows that the practice may actually begin in high school.

Researchers led by Elizabeth Austic, PhD, at the University of Michigan Injury Center analyzed survey data from over 240,000 teens and young adults. The findings showed that the peak age for abusing prescription stimulants was between 16 and 19 years of age, with some cases occurring as early as middle school.  Additionally, those aged 20 to 21 had the same rate of starting to use stimulants as those who were 13 and 14 years old.

According to the study’s results, the rate of abuse was twice as high among women as it was among men. While both sexes  referred to improved academic performance and the feelings of “getting high” as their motivation for abuse, women seemed to favor prescription diet pills while men were drawn more to prescription attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs such as Adderall. Caucasian and Native American teens were more likely to misuse of stimulants than other racial and ethnic groups.

Dangers of Stimulant Abuse

Regardless of what age it starts, the misuse of these drugs is dangerous. Prescription stimulants boost a person’s alertness, attention and energy. But they can also increase a person’s blood pressure and heart rate.

Short-term consequences of prescription stimulant abuse can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Nausea
  • Interrupted sleep patterns
  • Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability, panic and psychosis
  • Convulsions, seizures and possible death from high doses

Long-term consequences may include:

  • Permanent damage to blood vessels in the heart and brain
  • High blood pressure that can lead to heart attack, stroke or death
  • Damage to the liver, kidney and lungs
  • Infectious diseases if injection method is used
  • Respiratory problems if drug is smoked
  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Exhaustion
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Strong psychological dependence
  • Depression
  • Psychosis

While most prescription drug abusers take pills, some people crush the tablets to snort or inject the drug. This can cause additional damage because ingredients in the tablets can impede blood flow to the heart and other organs.

Don’t wait until college to talk to your children about prescription stimulant abuse. Recognizing the damage these drugs can cause when taken incorrectly is the first step in avoiding addiction and its potentially fatal consequences.

By Jenna Mitchell

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