This is the fifth post in our weekly fall School Stress series, a back-to-school toolkit for parents on how to best navigate their teen’s stress and anxiety — explored in our documentary BREAKING POINTS.
Many students are stressed out from academic pressure – AP classes, extracurricular activities, homework, college applications, and more. Some think that taking unprescribed stimulants (medications used to treat ADHD, such as Ritalin and Adderall) – will help them with extra energy to study longer, cram for exams and improve their grades.
While prescription stimulants do promote wakefulness, studies have found that they do not enhance learning or thinking ability when taken by people who do not actually have ADHD. And taking these drugs without a prescription can lead to delirium, psychosis or heart failure.
What’s most troubling: Many students say it’s easy to get these unprescribed medications if they want them. Unfortunately, many parents have no idea this is happening.
THE FACTSHigh-school students are stressed out and anxious. Many of them are coping in unhealthy ways:
Some college students are abusing prescription stimulants that are not prescribed to them:
Students say they feel pressure to take unprescribed stimulants in order to stay competitive:
“When SATs rolled around, one of the number one questions was,
‘did you use Adderall?’”
“Everyone’s pretty open about it –- it’s not like it’s a ‘no-no’ drug.”
— students featured in the film BREAKING POINTSIt’s often high-achieving kids at great high schools who are doing this:
“They feel like: ‘It’s a cheat or a be-cheated world. And if other people are doing it, I don’t want to be the one to lose out because the stakes are really high.’ ”
— Denise Pope, Author of Overloaded and Underprepared, Challenge Success, Stanford
- Talk to your son or daughter about the dangers of drinking and using drugs, including abusing prescription drugs not prescribed to him or her.
- Remind him or her that it’s okay to ask for help – whether for academics, stress or mental health.
- Ensure your teen or young adult knows that they are valued for who they are, not what they achieve.
- Prepare him or her with alternative coping skills such as breathing techniques, mindfulness and other tools to help him or her relax and redirect their thoughts when they are feeling anxious.
- Learn more about stimulant abuse.
- Help your student manage anxiety.
- Read the story of Will Hartigan, a young adult in recovery from stimulant abuse.
- If your child is struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, call our Toll-Free Parent’s Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE or visit Get Help.
Bring BREAKING POINTS
to Your Community
Host a screening of BREAKING POINTS in your school or community.
The package includes: a Screening Guide with discussion questions, a movie poster, a customizable invitation, a customizable Press Release, Action/Tip Sheets and a Fact Sheet to guide your community discussion.
Are you a parent? Are you aware of this problem in your school district or community? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
The post School Stress: Stimulant Abuse – Kids Know About It but Parents Don’t appeared first on Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
This is the fourth post in our weekly fall School Stress series, a back-to-school toolkit for parents on how to best navigate their teen’s stress and anxiety — explored in our documentary BREAKING POINTS.
Nearly one-fifth of college students report that they take prescription stimulants that are not prescribed to them. And reports show that high-school students are abusing these medicines too. Let’s take a closer look.
What are prescription stimulants? Prescription stimulants are medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta and Vyvanse.
Why are students abusing stimulants? For most it’s about trying to cope with stress and academic pressure — and trying to get extra energy to study longer and cram for exams. Many teens falsely assume that abusing prescription stimulants is not as dangerous as using street drugs, because prescription drugs are prescribed by a doctor. Others may abuse stimulants as party drugs — for the energy or “high.”
Are they dangerous? When not prescribed, yes. In reality, these drugs are controlled substances — which means there is a high risk for addiction or abuse, as well as negative side effects like delirium, psychosis or heart failure.
In addition, relying on unprescribed prescription medicines to help “manage” life can establish a lifelong pattern of dependency and prevent teens from learning important coping skills.
Is abusing stimulants helpful? Studies have found that stimulants do not increase learning or thinking ability when taken by people who have not been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). According to Alan Schwarz, “There’s no question that it increases your ability to stay awake. It does not make you smarter. It does not increase your memory. It merely makes you more willing to continue doing something that you would otherwise consider quiet tedious and enervating.”
Is it easy for students to get?
It appears to be:
- 60% of college students say it’s easy to obtain prescription stimulants without a prescription.
- 50% of college students diagnosed with ADHD have felt pressure to share their prescription stimulants and 27% have shared them.
“Because the drugs are readily available and being passed,” says Schwarz, “they’re coming out of backpacks into the other students’ hands.”
How is this medicine so readily available? “It’s extraordinarily easy to get a diagnosis of ADHD,” Schwarz explains. “The problem is that those criteria are rather murky, they’re very subjective, and, in this context, very easy for a child to fake — to simply go into a doctor’s office and feign the symptoms of ADHD: distractibility, fidgety-ness, lack of attention, and boom! Half an hour later they walk out with a prescription for stimulants.”
“And, so you have kids who might have the pills in their backpacks, who bring them to school and you know their friend in a biology lab says, ‘Hey man, I really gotta study late tonight. Can I have one of those?’ The next thing you know, Billy with ADHD is giving a controlled substance, amphetamine, to his friend, age 15, and neither of them has any idea how it works, neither of them has any idea what side effects there may be.”
Are there suggestions for parents? “If your child at age 16 says that, ‘Mom, I think I have ADHD,’ it’s absolutely possible that they might,” Schwarz says. “And you should take that seriously. But it’s also very possible that they are hoping to get free supplies of medicines that they use non-therapeutically, and also might sell.”
Watch Alan Schwarz discuss misperceptions teens have about stimulant abuse. This footage is from BREAKING POINTS, our 30-minute documentary (intended for parents and other adults) that explores the pressures our teens face every day, as well as the unhealthy ways that many of them cope:
Be sure to join us Tuesday, September 20 at 12 noon EDT for a special live Facebook chat with Alan Schwarz to discuss misperceptions of stimulant abuse. We invite you to submit questions in advance — simply email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To help your teen understand the true dangers of abusing prescription stimulants:
- Talk with your teen about prescription stimulants — ask why they think some teens abuse them to study and why they might be dangerous and interfere with their lives.
- Remind your child to never take medication that isn’t prescribed to them.
- Check in often with your teens about the stress and pressures they’re facing at school and help them find healthy ways to cope.
- If you’re concerned about your child’s abuse of prescription medication, call our Toll-Free Parent’s Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE to speak with one of our trained and caring specialists.
Watch the trailer for BREAKING POINTS to learn more about the stress and academic pressure surrounding today’s teens.
The post School Stress: Stimulant Abuse FAQ – A Closer Look with Author Alan Schwarz appeared first on Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
September is Recovery Month, a national observance to increase awareness and understanding of the disease of addiction. This month we’re honoring the millions of Americans in recovery – along with their families and loved ones.
Support from others is essential to recovery. Here are six easy and meaningful things you can do to celebrate Recovery Month and support someone in recovery:
- Send an e-Card.
For a person who has struggled with drugs or alcohol, each moment in recovery is a time to celebrate. Today, with our special edition eCards, you can donate and send an eCard to someone you love in recovery. Honor your loved one today >
- Read a Recovery Story.
We believe that stories unite those who have been touched by addiction and offer hope to others. Our vibrant community of nearly 2,000 people sharing their stories shows that recovery is possible. Visit Stories of Hope >
- Add a Comment & Share Love.
While you’re reading Stories of Hope, leave an encouraging comment to someone in recovery like Sofia, Justin and Jodi and those with an anniversary today. You can also “heart” a story, to share some love – just click on the heart. (Please note, you’ll have to be signed in.) Show some love >
- Share Your Story
Do you have a recovery story? Share it now and become part of our online recovery community. Be an inspiration. Your story could change someone else’s. Add your story >
- Learn About Recovery
Recovery is an ongoing, lifelong process, and requires continuing care and support from clinicians, peers and parents. Use this guide to better understand the role you can play in supporting a child in recovery. Visit Continuing Care >
- Help a Family by Making a Donation
Your financial support will provide families with the tools they need to take effective action for their child’s substance use and addiction. Consider a monthly gift of just $5. Make a difference now >
We are grateful to Will Hartigan, 26, for sharing his recovery story as part of our fall School Stress series, a back-to-school toolkit for parents on how to best navigate their teen’s stress and anxiety — explored in our documentary BREAKING POINTS. Here’s Will:
From a young age, I always strived for a high standard of success — getting good grades in school, participating in high-level athletics, attending a prestigious college and pursuing a career in finance. These goals permeated every aspect of my life and psyche and the pressure to succeed and the fear of failure dogged me.
Upholding my lofty goals became impossible. I discovered that drugs and alcohol served as a reprieve from the pressure. And my addictive behavior took flight.
With countless arrests and a reputation as a “wild man”, my control over people’s perceptions of me became unmanageable. My fears were compounded, stress seemed insurmountable and self-hatred blossomed.
My reaction was always the same: get back on the beam, muster all of the self-will within me and keep fighting for success. I thought that if I could temper my erratic behavior and string together a number of accomplishments, then my perception of myself, and others’ perceptions, would be mended.
My parents restricted me from getting a driver’s license until I turned 18 because I was reckless and irresponsible. When I was 18 I returned home from Cornell and obtained a license. On my first night as a driver I ran out of gas on the side of the road with a consumed case of beer in my trunk. I was arrested and held in a jail cell for the night. My drinking and using history is littered with similar incidents. At this point the knot of shame and guilt in my stomach was all consuming.
I was a shell of a human, living only to prove to the people around me that I was a good person despite my failures. It felt as though everyone was disappointed — or at least in awe of my propensity for self-destruction. Determined to right my wrongs, I returned to Cornell with a newfound resolve.
It was the beginning of my second semester and I discovered unprescribed Adderall. I proceeded to get straight A’s, and had an impressive showing as a freshman on the Men’s Varsity Squash team. Naturally, I concluded that ADD had been the cause of all of my struggles to date, and that Adderall was the cure.
I used Adderall to wake up, go to class, play squash, write papers, talk to girls, make important phone calls, play video games, brush my teeth, etc. By this point I had developed the alias of “Blackout Billy” due to the long and unpredictable blackouts that I had while drinking. Adderall even prevented the blackouts! It was perfect.
But I couldn’t sleep and I found that taking painkillers at night helped with the insomnia. I discovered OxyContin during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year and fell in love. I believed that if I could sustain the feeling I got from mixing OxyContin and Adderall for the rest of my life, that the sky was the limit for my success. It relieved me of my insecurities, I was happy and relaxed, and I wasn’t tortured by my guilt and shame.
Over time, my tolerance grew and the high became less controlled. I began to withdraw from the people who loved me, I neglected school, I quit the squash team and I couldn’t sleep for more than a few hours without experiencing physical withdrawals from the opiates. I became utterly isolated and life became indescribably dark. Even the thought of a face-to-face encounter with one of my friends was enough to send me into a panic. Yet, to the very end I maintained my delusional sense of control.
My family unsuccessfully intervened many times, but in August 2010, they caught me at a desperate time. I agreed to go to 28-days inpatient treatment with a relatively open-mind. The severity of my problem began to sink in as I didn’t sleep for my first ten days due to opiate withdrawal. After 28 days I agreed to do one month in a sober house in St. Paul, Minnesota. This was a monumental shift in behavior; for the first time in my life I resisted the urge to rush back to school/squash/finance in an attempt to repair the damage as quickly as possible.
At some point in my first two months of recovery, I was struck by the revelation that my thinking was abnormal, that my ego and self-will had driven me to emotional and spiritual bankruptcy, and that if left to my own devices I would drink again, or at least struggle through life. I threw my hands up and accepted suggestions for the first time in my life. I prayed to be relieved of my bondage of self, and voraciously sought counsel from my newfound support network on how to live. I conceded that I was powerless and needed help.
I have been given a life beyond my wildest dreams and I have remained on a pink cloud since my time in Minnesota.
I returned to Cornell and started a student-run support group called SOBER with my friend, Hudson. I worked on Wall Street for three years, and experienced success in NYC. After three years, I asked myself if I wanted to look back on my life in thirty years and see a life in finance. I have never had any passion for finance, and simply pursued it because it seemed like the popular thing to do.
I left my job seven months ago and began a sober house, similar to the one I lived in for a year in Minnesota. I live in the house and am currently helping fourteen men stay sober through a daily program of action. I still follow the daily program of self-care that I developed in my sober house in Minnesota. Booze and drugs were 1% of my problem. I stay in recovery for my thinking, not for my drinking.
I recently read a short story in which a man on his deathbed was asked what his greatest regret was. He said he regretted that he spent time worrying. I can worry myself sick, but I know today that it is truly pointless. If I have a daily plan, have faith that I will be taken care of and take action, I know that I will be healthy.
My addiction had to run its course, and I had to get beaten down repeatedly before I was ready to get well. Today, I am grateful for every arrest, embarrassing night, every hangover and every hour of withdrawal that I experienced. These things brought me to a point of willingness.
I still have pressure in my life but it no longer feels like a crushing burden. I am grateful for the responsibilities that life presents and thanks to recovery I am prepared to face them.
To Help Your Son or Daughter:
- Try to ease the performance pressure and talk with your son or daughter about how there are many paths to success.
- If your son or daughter is anxious, overly stressed or struggling emotionally, seek help.
- Practice Self-Care. Take time to nurture and renew yourself so that you can respond to your son or daughter more effectively. It’s also a way to model behaviors for your child so that they see how a healthy adult manages life’s ups and downs.
- If your child is struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, call our Toll-Free Parent’s Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE or visit Get Help.
Want more understanding about teen stress and pressure?
Watch the trailer for BREAKING POINTS, which explores the unhealthy ways many teens cope, including abusing Rx stimulants.
This is the second post in our weekly fall School Stress series, a back-to-school toolkit for parents on how to best navigate their teen’s stress and anxiety — explored in our documentary BREAKING POINTS.
Being a student today can be really tough, and often teens will feel tempted to “solve” their academic and social problems with prescription stimulants. While prescription stimulants are medically used for treating real diagnosed conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), some teens abuse them in an attempt to feel alert, focused and full of energy when they need to manage stressful schoolwork or feel as if they need to “pull an all-nighter.” The truth is that teens don’t necessarily have all of the facts.
Check out these five myths about stimulant abuse.
– 1 –MYTH: Everybody’s doing it. FACT: While it certainly may feel like everyone’s doing it, studies show that, of teens using prescription stimulants, one in 5 take pills not prescribed to them.
– 2 –MYTH: Stimulants will increase my GPA. FACT: Studies show that GPA is actually lower in students that take stimulants without a prescription written for them. In students that are prescribed stimulants to treat ADHD, studies show that while their ADHD symptoms improve, their GPA does not increase.
– 3 –MYTH: It makes everyone study better. FACT: Many people that take unprescribed prescription stimulants experience anxiety, nervousness, loss of appetite and sleep deprivation—all of which interferes with studying and performance on exams.
– 4 –MYTH: Stimulants are harmless. FACT: Data gathered from emergency room visits show that unprescribed stimulants can cause anxiety, sleep deprivation, stroke, psychosis and—perhaps most surprisingly to teens—addiction.
– 5 –MYTH: Mixing stimulants with alcohol is safe and will help me stay awake and drink longer. FACT: Since stimulants can mask the effects of alcohol and cause the user to consume more alcohol than they normally would, mixing stimulants with alcohol puts “uppers” and “downers” at odds with each other, and thus increases the likelihood of DUI, alcohol poisoning, accidents and even death.
Talk with your teen to help them understand the dangers of prescription stimulant abuse and how they can better handle pressure they may feel to abuse this medicine. Be sure to:
- Offer empathy and compassion to your teens and let them know you understand the pressure and stress they may be going through.
- Acknowledge that everyone struggles sometimes, but taking prescription stimulants is not a useful or healthy way to cope.
- Remind them that you are there for support and guidance – and that it’s important to you that they are healthy and happy and make safe choices.
To Help Your College Student Handle Stress and Anxiety:
- Talk regularly about the dangers of drinking and using drugs, including abusing prescription drugs not prescribed to him or her.
- Help him or her discover what healthy study methods work best. Look into time management and study techniques so he or she can be better organized and not have to cram for tests.
- Explore study and stress management resources and programs at your child’s school and in your community.
Watch the trailer for BREAKING POINTS, our film exploring teen stress and pressure and the unhealthy ways many cope, including abusing Rx stimulants.
We thank Dr. Josh Hersh, Staff Psychiatrist at Florida Gulf Coast University, for his help in preparing this post.