Stress and Drug Use: What Every Parent Should Know

    We all have stress in our lives. When it comes to your teens, you know that school (like homework, tests, SATs, college applications) combined with juggling social media and after-school activities is one of the biggest sources — and you want to make sure that it doesn’t lead them to unhealthy behaviors to help cope.

    Stress can be a motivator, but it can also produce negative feelings and, unfortunately, increase the possibility that a teen will use drugs.

    When people are under stress, the brain releases cortisol, the stress hormone. Over time and under chronic stress, parts of the brain that are related to memory or learning are negatively affected by the presence of cortisol. Interestingly, some of these areas of the brain are the same parts impacted by drug use and addiction[1].

    Your child’s brain is still developing until age 25, and stress can damage parts of the brain that can make them more vulnerable to drug addiction, in the same way as an early initiation of drug use[2].

    It’s not a new concept that stress can lead to drug use and addiction — far from it — but it’s something that many parents don’t necessarily associate with school and the good intentions they have for their kids. Abusing drugs not prescribed to them, like prescription stimulants, act on the “reward center” in your child’s brain, releasing euphoric chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. In time, they can cause the brain to rely on drugs to keep those chemicals flowing. While drugs might make your child temporarily feel respite, in the long run, misusing drugs actually makes stress more pronounced[3].

    Unfortunately, those exposed to chronic stress are more likely to use substances in an attempt to relax or “power through” the stress, so it’s important that your child knows how to use healthy coping mechanisms instead to deal with the pressures he or she faces[4].

    School Stress & Prescription Stimulant Abuse

    We explore the intersection of teen stress and anxiety, and substance use, in particular the misuse of stimulants commonly prescribed for ADHD, like Adderall and other medications.

    School Stress: Prescription Stimulant Abuse

    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.

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    School Stress: Are Study Drugs Helpful or Harmful?

    What happens when high-school and college kids (who don’t have ADHD) take prescription stimulants that are not prescribed to them? Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, weighs in.

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    School Stress: 5 Myths About Stimulant Abuse

    Being a student today can be really tough, and often teens will feel tempted to “solve” their academic and social problems with prescription stimulants.

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    School Stress: 10 Ways Parents Can Help Kids Manage Stress

    While some stress can help motivate kids to get work done, too much stress can be overwhelming and can cause problems with health, sleep and brain function. Learn 10 tips to help your kids manage stress.

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    School Stress: Healthy Stress vs. “Red Flag” Stress

    How can parents tell when their child is experiencing a ‘normal’ amount of stress — and when they should be worried? We reached out to two pediatricians to find out.

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    School Stress: Raising Resilient, Self-Aware Kids

    Students today are more anxious and stressed out than ever before. Julie Lythcott-Haims saw this first-hand when she served as Stanford University’s Dean of Freshmen for a decade.

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    School Stress: 3 Mindful Practices for Calm, Focused and Happy Teens

    What is mindfulness? Can it help teens de-stress? And how do you do it?

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    School Stress: The Power of Gratitude

    Appreciating the goodness in our lives, helps teens feel more positive emotions, rather than negative feelings like stress, anxiety and depression — and there’s research to prove it.

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    School Stress: Modeling Healthy Behavior for Your Child

    How you, as a parent, handle stress and life’s pressures can be reflected in your child’s behavior. Learn how to model healthy coping skills.

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    School Stress: Why Your Teen Needs a Good Night’s Sleep

    Teenagers are living life at full speed and need more sleep than adults to stay healthy and safe – and cope with stress.

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    My Story of Recovery From Stimulant Use

    I am grateful for the responsibilities that life presents and, thanks to recovery, I am prepared to face them.

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