Documentary Explores Stress and Unhealthy Ways Teens Cope
~ New Research: Stress, Anxiety Play Large Role in Life of Teens, Many Resort to Using Rx Medicine Not Prescribed to Them to Cope With Daily Pressures
NEW YORK, April 26, 2016 – The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a national nonprofit working to reduce substance abuse among adolescents, today announced the launch of BREAKING POINTS, a new, short documentary film that raises awareness about the level of stress that high school and college students experience and the unhealthy ways that many of them cope. The film explores behavior that is becoming normalized among students – abusing prescription (Rx) medicines not prescribed to them, including Rx stimulants for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). BREAKING POINTS was directed by Tucker Capps, known for his work on A&E’s “Intervention,” and is a part of the Partnership’s Medicine Abuse Project, a national action campaign with the goal of preventing and addressing prescription medicine abuse among teens.
Along with the launch of BREAKING POINTS, the Partnership also released new research today reinforcing themes uncovered in the film – young people are engaging in risky behaviors like abusing substances, including Rx medicines, to cope with stress and anxiety.
BREAKING POINTS includes candid perspectives from high school and college students and nationally recognized experts, challenging the misperceived “safety” and effectiveness of abusing prescription stimulants without a doctor’s prescription. The film serves as a catalyst to inform discussions about what parents and communities can do to support teens who are struggling to manage stress and anxiety.
“Today’s high school students are overscheduled and overstressed, and unfortunately too many of them are turning to Rx stimulants to cope with the stress of their daily lives. So we created this BREAKING POINTS to take a deeper dive into the reasons why teens are stressed and to challenge perceptions about the perceived safety of taking these medications that are not prescribed to them,” said Kristi Rowe, Chief Marketing Officer for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Many of the teens who abuse Rx stimulants are often smart, competitive kids who see taking these pills as the only way to level the academic playing field.”
Along with interviews with high school and college students from across the country talking about their own personal experiences with stress, the film also features interviews with Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse; Denise Pope, Author, Stanford Senior Lecturer, Co-Founder of Challenge Success; and Alan Schwarz, Pulitzer Prize-Nominated National Correspondent for The New York Times, among others.
“Many teens see stimulants as a solution to handle their increasing workload, using the medicines to stay up late in order to complete hours of homework and to get through lengthy standardized tests,” said Denise Pope. “This film uncovers the truth behind these so-called ‘study drugs’ and will spark important dialogue between parents, educators, and students on how to prevent abuse of stimulants and encourage more positive coping strategies to handle the academic pressures today’s youth are facing.”
“Traveling the country to make this film, I’ve been struck by how the competition to get into college has become so intense, and so insular, that some students really start to lose perspective,” said Tucker Capps. “Too many high schoolers and college kids believe that they’d be at a disadvantage if they don’t use their friends’ prescription stimulants to focus on papers and exams. My hope is that we can point out this trend to parents and educators before it becomes the new norm.”
Stress, Anxiety Plaguing Teens: Many Resort to Rx Medicine Abuse to Cope with Daily Pressures
The film is being released against a backdrop of continued abuse of prescription medicines by teens and young people. The Partnership fielded a series of questions to better understand the relationship between stress, anxiety and substance use among teenagers. The new survey data show:
- A majority of teens (61 percent) say stress and anxiety have a large impact on their lives, and half of all teens (49 percent) struggle to manage these mental states.
- One in ten teens (11 percent) says they feel compelled at times to drink alcohol or use drugs to help cope with stress and anxiety.
- The research also shows that more than one in five teens (22 percent) believe it is okay to abuse a prescription drug, as long as they were not doing so to “get high.”
The Partnership also previously released research that complements the new data and confirms that the abuse of prescription stimulants has become a normalized behavior among current college students. The online study was conducted among young adults and found that they often misuse and abuse prescription stimulants as a way to manage the daily demands of academics, work and social pressures.
The research was released in November 2014 and found that 1 in 5 college students (20 percent) reported abusing prescription stimulants at least once in their lifetime. Older students were also more prone to engage in these behaviors: the data found that among current students, sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students are significantly more likely to abuse Rx stimulants than college freshmen.
“Studies show that when stimulant medications used to treat ADHD are taken by people who do not actually have ADHD, they do not improve academic performance, when compared to a placebo, and abusing them can lead to dependence, addiction and to other serious health problems,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “We also want to make sure that parents of teens with a legitimate prescription for ADHD medication talk with their children about the importance of securing their medicine and never sharing it with friends.”
Local Screenings Provide Communities Opportunity to Discuss Solutions for Teen Stress and Anxiety
BREAKING POINTS will roll out through a series of special local screenings in towns and communities across the country. A dedicated website for BREAKING POINTS is available at www.drugfree.org/breakingpoints/ and will provide access to the film for those who want to arrange screenings in their towns or for schools and community organizations who want to plan an event and panel discussion around the film. The local screenings provide key opportunities for parents, educators and community leaders to explore what steps they can take to help young people manage stress better and, in turn, help curb teen Rx medicine abuse.
The website also features extended interviews with experts from the movie; shareable infographics with statistics on teen Rx medicine abuse, stress and anxiety; and downloadable action sheets with tips and advice for parents.
To learn more about the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids please visit, drugfree.org.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids fielded a series of questions through ORC’s Online CARAVAN Youth Omnibus to explore the relationship between stress, anxiety and substance use among teenagers. The survey had a sample size of 500 teens, between the ages of 13-17 years old and the questions were fielded the week of February 9-16, 2016.
CREATIVE CREDITS FOR “BREAKING POINTS:”
PRODUCER & DIRECTOR: TUCKER CAPPS
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: TUCKER CAPPS, KRISTI ROWE
CO-PRODUCER: NATALIE ANCONA
WRITER: TUCKER CAPPS
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: TUCKER CAPPS
CAMERA: TUCKER CAPPS AND NATALIE ANCONA
EDITORS: TUCKER CAPPS, UMA SANASARYAN, AND ALEX O’FLINN
SCORE: JOHN BALCOM AND JONATHAN ZALBEN; FIRST FRAME MUSIC
SOUND: MICHAEL HUANG; FILM NOISE
COLOR: GERRY CURTIS; FOREST LAKE FILMS
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