If you are a parent, pay attention. There is a very good chance your child will eventually use prescription ADHD medications like Adderall when they don’t have an ADHD diagnoses. In the past decade, Adderall has become increasingly popular for overworked and overscheduled high school and college students.
What Parents Need to Know About Adderall Abuse
Why On Earth Would My Kid Take Adderall?
They think it gives them superpowers. Kids believe that it will improve their athletic and academic performance. There is also a lack of knowledge surrounding the drug, it’s easy to get, and there are no social stigmas. In fact, in a 2008 study of 1,800 college students, 81% of students interviewed thought the illicit use of Adderall was “not dangerous at all” or just “slightly dangerous.”
It’s also easy to get from kids who do need the prescription drug to manage their ADHD symptoms. Kids are passing Adderall around like candy.
In one study of about 1,800 college students, 34% reported the illegal use of ADHD stimulants, such as Adderall. Most illegal users reported using ADHD stimulants primarily in periods of high academic stress and found them to reduce fatigue while increasing reading comprehension, interest, cognition, and memory. Furthermore, most had little information about the drug and found procurement to be both easy and stigma free.
The numbers vary by region and school, with the greatest proportion of users at private High Schools and Universities. Some researchers estimate that over 30% of students use stimulants non-medically.
The worst part is that students don’t know the risks. The reality is that Adderall is highly addictive, with some research indicating it is as addictive as methamphetamines. While the picture of a methamphetamine user has hollowed cheeks, rotting teeth, and skin sores, an Adderall user looks just like anybody else. Many college students report classmates taking Adderall as if it is a daily vitamin.
What Are The Risks of Taking Adderall?
There are many and they are worrisome. Many people find it difficult to manage their anger, report hallucinations, rapid heart rate and paranoia. Other short-term adverse consequences include sleep difficulties, restlessness, headaches, irritability, and depressed feelings. Loss of appetite, nervousness, and changes in sex drive are also reported.
Is Adderall Addictive?
Yes. The long-term risk of psychological and physical dependence is of concern for routine users that may find they do not feel they can function optimally without it. Adderall is classified by the US Drug Enforcement Administration as a schedule II substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse.
According to the NCBI, the acute use of Adderall produces a wide range of dose-dependent behavioral changes, including increased arousal or wakefulness, anorexia, hyperactivity, perseverative movements, and, in particular, a state of pleasurable affect, elation, and euphoria, which can lead to the abuse of the drug.
Is Adderall Legal to Get from Kids Who Have ADHD?
God no! Students don’t realize that obtaining Adderall from friends with ADHD is illegal. Getting Adderall from friends with prescriptions, as the vast majority of students do, seems less dangerous and illegal than buying drugs off the street. They are wrong. In fact, they are breaking the law. What many students define as innocent behavior is actually a felony.
Specific laws vary state by state, but if you are caught with illegal prescription drugs (meaning any meds that aren’t prescribed for you), you can be imprisoned. Also, if you are legally taking Adderall to manage ADHD and share your medication with someone else, you are basically considered a dealer. This decision can be punishable by up to seven years in prison.
What Is Adderall Good For?
Adderall significantly improves outcomes for people with ADHD. Parents and patients report a longer attention span, and an increased ability to focus while taking the medication. “Adderall, when used properly is used to compensate for deficits, not increase performance,” says Eugene Arnold, a professor of psychopharmacology at the Ohio State University.
Someone with ADHD tends to have a very inactive prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls things like attention span. “Give them a stimulant and they’re relatively back at ‘normal’ because these drugs hike up the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain’s reward center, which helps people feel more alert and attentive and has a calming effect,” says Arnold.
However, if you do not have a deficit in your prefrontal cortex, the use of Adderall can lead to an abnormal heart rate, heart attacks, seizures, and even sudden death. Keep in mind, these outcomes are more likely to happen if you take a larger dose than prescribed, but it happens all the time.
Why? Well, students who have been on Adderall for their ADHD have likely been monitored for years by their MD. They know what dose to take, what time of day to take it, and how much. Their dose is highly regulated and observed carefully over time. Parents help to record and manage side effects to make sure their children are responding safely to the drug.
If you haven’t sat down with a doc to talk about Adderall use or have an underlying heart condition, who knows what could happen? There aren’t any studies on the long-term effects of stimulants on people who pop them when they’re not supposed to. It’s simply not worth it.
How Should Parents Educate Children About Adderall Abuse?
Parents need to be on high alert. Legally prescribed Adderall has become ubiquitous on college campuses and in the more affluent high schools of our country. Talk to your children about Adderall and explain to them that it is a dangerous and illegal drug that can seriously harm them. If your child feels like they need Adderall to perform, perhaps they are biting off more than they can chew. Also, kids who start popping Adderall are more likely to try other drugs and even have a higher risk of alcohol abuse.
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