This article is part of a series on navigating teens stress and anxiety, a common reason for substance use. Find the full series at Stress & Drug Use: What Every Parent Should Know.
Being a student today can be really tough. 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.
Debunking the myths
Myth 1: Everybody’s doing it.
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.
MYTH 2: Stimulants will increase my GPA.
Studies show that GPA is actually lower in students that have taken stimulants without a prescription written for them. In students that are prescribed stimulants to treat ADHD, studies show that while their ADHA symptoms improve, their GPA does not increase.
MYTH 3: It makes everyone study better.
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.
MYTH 4: Stimulants are harmless.
Data gathered from emergency room visits show that unprescribed stimulants can cause anxiety, sleep deprivation, stroke, psychosis and—perhaps most surprisingly to teens—addiction.
MYTH 5: Mixing stimulants with alcohol is safe and will help me stay awake and drink longer.
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
What you can do
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.
Bring BREAKING POINTS to Your Community
Host a screening of BREAKING POINTS, a documentary film that takes on the issue of study drugs and how they intersect with school stress. The package includes a Screening Guide with discussion questions and other bonus materials.