Elements Alerts Parents about Rise in “Study Drug” Abuse and How to Recognize Withdrawal Symptoms from ADHD Medications when College Students Return Home
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has reported via its Drug Abuse Warning Network that increased prescribing of ADHD drugs has led to greater access by person without a prescription and that peers are a common source of ADHD medications.
When college students return home for the summer, they are often subject to curfews and other house rules that didn't apply while they were away. In some cases, students that have become dependent on illicit drugs or prescription medication (such as "study drugs") will experience withdrawal symptoms if they can't continue their substance use while living at home. Others will continue their substance abuse and may exhibit signs of addiction. Being able to recognize these signs and symptoms will help you get your child the treatment they may need as well as prevent future addiction-related problems.
"Study drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, when taken by someone who doesn't suffer from attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), act as stimulants. They can cause irritability, insomnia, rapid shifts in emotions, and weight loss," explains Dr. David Sack, an addiction psychiatrist and CEO of Elements Behavioral Health.
Study drugs allow students to stay up for hours to study without becoming tired. Some students say it increases their ability to focus as well. The drugs are very cheap and easy to obtain, as they are often illicitly sold on campus, sometimes by those who have legitimate prescriptions. Sometimes students will also deceive a physician by reporting symptoms they know will result in a diagnosis of ADHD and a prescription for the medications they want to use as study aids.
"Because these drugs are amphetamine-based, they have a high potential for tolerance and addiction," warns Dr. Sack. "Because the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in the brain when these drugs are taken, the brain begins to associate the drugs with a reward and craves more. Periods of extended abuse require increasing amounts of the drug to feel the same effects, which can lead to addiction."
Serious side effects may also accompany the drugs, including sleep deprivation, loss of appetite, and heart problems. These drugs may also increase blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, heart attack, and sudden death.
Withdrawal and Addiction Symptoms
Symptoms of addiction include secretive behavior, an abrupt change in friends or social circle, changes in personality or attitude, changes in sleeping pattern, frequent lying or evasiveness, and physical signs of being high, such as unusual energy, rapid speech, and tiny pupils.
Withdrawal symptoms from amphetamines include fatigue, depression, increased appetite, anxiety, agitation, excessive sleep, lucid dreams, and even suicidal ideation.
"If you notice that your child is exhibiting a combination of these symptoms, you should talk to him or her candidly about prescription drug abuse," says Dr Sack, whose Elements program, Promises West LA, specializes in young adults.
"First let your child know that you are aware of changes in their behavior and ask your child if he or she is using drugs of any kind, including prescription drugs. Let your child know that you are concerned for their well-being and that you are willing to do anything to help. Let them know some of the changes in them that you have noticed and keep the communication open. If you are told that there is a problem or you feel that you are not getting direct or honest answers, you should consider seeking the help of professionals," he suggests.
If your child denies the substance abuse but the behaviors persist, you might consider hiring a professional interventionist.
Elements Behavioral Health aims to fill the gaps in mental health treatment between inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services; in co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders; and between traditional and alternative settings to help clients that are underweight or overweight due to eating-related and other issues. The goal is for full recovery and well-being with permanent lifestyle improvement and change, and not just symptom reduction. Our focus is not only on the patient, but on the health and support of the family system. Promises Treatment Centers has addiction treatment centers in West Los Angeles and Malibu, California. The Ranch offers treatment for substance abuse, eating disorders, and PTSD on a working ranch outside Nashville, Tennessee. To learn more about Promises visit //www.promises.com. To learn more about Elements Behavioral Health visit //www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com. To learn more about treatment options or for a referral to an interventionist call our Recovery Referral Center at 877-351-7506.