Stimulants are among the most frequently abused prescription medicines, and their use among teens is growing. Without timely professional treatment, those teens are at a growing risk for addiction, overdose and even death.
What Are Stimulants Used For?
Today’s teenagers are under tremendous pressure to succeed in every area of their lives. Teens, parents, and society value academic accomplishments, athletic achievements, and social popularity. To increase their energy for these endeavors, many teens take dangerous risks such as abusing stimulant drugs.
Though doctors sometimes order prescription stimulants for fatigue, depression, or sleep disorders like narcolepsy, these drugs are most commonly known for treating ADHD in teens (or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
Stimulants activate a brain chemical called dopamine, which generates feelings of euphoria. These pleasurable responses account for the addictive properties of amphetamines and other stimulant drugs.
Abuse of Prescription Stimulants
These are not benign drugs, even when they are legal. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies stimulant medications like Adderall and Ritalin in the same category as illicit stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine. All of the aforementioned are Schedule II substances, which means that they have limited medicinal use and carry a high risk for physical and psychological dependence.
Unfortunately, thousands of teenagers abuse stimulants each year, and some become addicted.
When taken at the prescribed dose, stimulant drugs can open up new doors for teens who have ADHD. However, when abused, they can cause serious problems. Abuse includes taking more than the prescribed dose of stimulant medication, taking the drug without a doctor’s order, or taking it for strictly recreational purposes.
Stimulants are manufactured for oral consumption, but people who abuse these drugs sometimes crush them into a powder and snort them, or dilute the powder in liquid and inject it into the veins.
As more teenagers receive pharmaceutical treatment for behavioral disorders, the rate of addiction to prescription drugs continues to increase.
Many teens begin using these drugs with a legitimate prescription, then become dependent if they do not use the drugs correctly. Other teenagers experiment with stimulants by buying the drugs from friends who have a prescription, then developing a dependence.
While some kids abuse ADHD medications for their energizing, euphoric effects, other teens illicitly take them to overachieve academically. These stimulants have become known as “study aid drugs” and “smart drugs,” and one in eight teens admits that they have used Ritalin or Adderall to study on at least one occasion.
Although taking unapproved ADHD medication may initially make a student feel smarter and more efficient, researchers have found that stimulant abuse does not enhance grades for students without ADHD.
Body-conscious teens may take stimulants to replicate the effects of diet pills. These drugs curb the appetite while speeding up the metabolism, so teens can easily achieve weight loss.
If you suspect your child has been abusing these prescription drugs, keep your ears open for slang names for stimulants. Ritalin, for example, is sometimes called “Vitamin R” while street names for Adderall include “addies” or “uppers.”
What Are the Effects of Stimulants?
Abusing stimulants can cause many serious side effects, some of them life-threatening. Immediately after taking a large dose of a medication like Adderall or Ritalin, or after snorting the crushed pills, users can experience effects such as:
- Rapid heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Sleep difficulties
- Loss of appetite
The long-term effects of chronic stimulant abuse are even more severe. Stimulant addiction can lead to unnecessary weight loss, chronic insomnia, difficulty learning and concentrating, panic attacks, fatigue, heart failure, and psychotic delusions.
Stimulant abuse can cause teen depression, emotional and mental exhaustion, and suicidal thoughts. If addiction sets in, teens are at greater risk for life-threatening stimulant overdoses, which can cause death.
Does Your Teen Need Stimulant Addiction Treatment?
If your teen is suffering from stimulant addiction, now is the time to be proactive. The sooner your child gets treatment for stimulant abuse, the better their chances for lasting recovery.
No matter what you’re going through, we are here for you. If you have questions about treatment, chat with one of our compassionate addiction advisors, whose help is confidential and available to you for free. Take the first step toward your child’s recovery — get in touch.
Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.