Teens Fail to Grasp Serious Risks of Stimulant Abuse

Posted on June 2nd, 2015
Posted in Teens

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the stimulant drugs used to treat it are increasingly ubiquitous. Adderall, Ritalin and similar medications are in high demand as ADHD diagnoses have skyrocketed in recent years, but not all of these prescriptions are being used for their intended purposes. Prescription stimulants have also become a popular drug for teenagers to abuse.

The most recent results of the Monitoring the Future study—an annual study of teen substance use habits—found that approximately 6.8 percent of teens have abused Adderall, while approximately 1.8 percent have abused Ritalin.

Recreation, Performance Enhancement

Prescription stimulant abuse can be tempting even for teenagers who do not fit the typical profile of drug users. The nature of stimulants means that, while they may be abused purely for recreational purposes, they can also be used in an effort to manage an advanced academic schedule or to improve athletic performance. This is part of the reason stimulant drugs like Adderall have become particularly popular among high school students, who are relying on their academic and athletic achievements to shape their futures.

The temptation that stimulants pose can even influence adults. Having an adolescent evaluated for ADHD can seem like a simple solution to academic problems that may stem from a variety of causes. Many experts are also concerned that physicians are too quick to diagnose ADHD and prescribe stimulants, contributing to the spread of these drugs among teenagers.

A large percentage of teens who take stimulant medications are in the habit of taking them during the school year only. According to some physicians, this is evidence that these drugs are really being used as performance enhancers rather than necessary treatment, because youths who truly suffer from ADHD will need the help of their medication even during school breaks.

Mental, Physical Side Effects From Stimulant Abuse

The ease with which stimulants are prescribed may also contribute to teen misconceptions about the dangers that stimulants can pose. When adults treat stimulant drugs as an easy solution, teens are more likely to use them thoughtlessly. However, stimulant drugs can result in a number of side effects even when used correctly, and when used incorrectly or deliberately abused, the negative effects can be much more serious.

Increased heart rate, irregular heart rate, elevated body temperature and high blood pressure are common physical risks associated with stimulant abuse, and long-term abuse carries the risk of seizures or cardiovascular failure. Psychological symptoms that can result from stimulant abuse include hostility, paranoia and even psychosis. In addition, withdrawal following the discontinuation of stimulant misuse can include symptoms such as depression, fatigue and sleep disruptions.

Prescription stimulant drugs are also potentially addictive. While the risk of addiction is considered to be minimal when the drugs are taken correctly for a genuine medical condition, the risk increases enormously when the drugs are abused. When the drugs are taken by snorting or injecting, the risk of addiction is still higher.

The “benefits” that are positively associated with stimulant abuse are offset by the negative after-effects. The initial results of stimulant abuse can include feelings of euphoria as well as increased concentration and energy. Once the drug wears off, however, it leaves the user with feelings of anxiety, depression and irritability. Furthermore, while the positive feelings associated with stimulant abuse can last around six hours, the low feelings that follow when the effects of the drug wear off can last for as long as one week.

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