Stimulants are legal when prescribed by a doctor for conditions like ADHD, but can be abused by teens who are facing pressure to perform academically. When used improperly, these drugs can quickly cause intense addiction. If your teen is abusing stimulants, now is the time to find help.
Stimulants are usually prescribed by doctors to help patients facing sleep disorders, hyperactivity disorders and severe cases of depression. They are habit-forming drugs, so they must be taken carefully as prescribed. When taken responsibly, stimulants can be safe and effective to use. The problem is that these drugs are often not used responsibly.
Teenagers often get a hold of them by stealing or buying the pills from a friend or relative who has a prescription. Recreational users are much more likely to become addicted to the drug. Most stimulants are available in pill form, although some may also be available as an injectable liquid or a patch that’s put on the skin. Abusers typically take the drugs in pill form (by swallowing whole, chewing or crushing and snorting the powder), or by injection if the drug is liquid. The latter methods hasten the high. Discontinuing use can lead to drug withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and insomnia.
- Vitamin R
- The Smart Drug
- Black Beauties
- Black Mollies/Blue Mollies
In some cases, teenagers use stimulants as “study drugs” to help enhance academic performance. Teens facing the pressures of high school or college exams or college admissions often find taking an upper allows them to stay up all night to study.
It was previously believed that mostly college students abused stimulants, however a 2015 study showed the peak age for illegally using the drugs is 16–19, and is even younger in some cases. The same study revealed females use the drugs nearly twice as much as males, and white and Native American teens use more than all other racial groups.
In one 2014 study, Adderall (i.e. an amphetamine, which is a specific kind of stimulant) was the 2nd most popular recreational drug used by high school seniors — 6.8% of the 12th graders said they used Adderall and 1.8% said they used Ritalin (i.e. a methylphenidate, which is another specific kind of stimulant). In the same study, 1.3% of the 8th graders surveyed said they used Adderall and 0.9% said they used Ritalin.
Collectively, most data shows academic pressures are the main trigger for teens and young adults to use and abuse stimulants.
Amphetamines keep dopamine and norepinephrine working in the brain, and helps the brain produce higher levels of these chemicals. Both of these neurotransmitters affect a person’s alertness, attention and energy.
Popular prescribed amphetamines include:
Methylphenidate functions similarly to amphetamine in that it keeps dopamine and norepinephrine working in the brain, although it does not increase the levels of the two neurotransmitters like amphetamine does. These 2 neurotransmitters affect a person’s alertness and attention.
Popular prescribed methylphenidates include:
Ephedrine is a naturally-occurring chemical found in the Asian shrub-like plant ephedra. It has been used for thousands of years to treat breathing conditions. In recent years, ephedrine has been used as an ingredient in weight loss pills, asthma medications and athletic performance enhancers.
Popular prescribed ephedrines include:
Although most people around the world get their daily dose of caffeine in a cup of tea or coffee, caffeine is also a common ingredient in pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications.
Popular prescribed caffeines include:
Methamphetamine, more commonly known as meth, is an incredibly potent stimulant — a psychostimulant. It is the mostly abused synthetic drug in America, and addiction is very common. For that reason, meth is very rarely prescribed in non-refillable, small doses. Because it’s only available in a very limited quantity pharmaceutically, most meth dealers “cook” their own in home laboratories using inexpensive ingredients such as some over-the-counter drugs. Desoxyn is often the only prescribed methamphetamine.
Amphetamines vs. Methamphetamines
Amphetamine is the parent drug of methamphetamine. Both are psychostimulants and have nearly the same chemical structure, but the drugs are not the same. While both can be used for recreational purposes, amphetamines do have some medicinal value and can be legally prescribed by a physician. Alternatively, medical professionals very rarely write small-dose prescriptions for meth, which cannot be refilled, because the drug has a high potential for abuse. The two drugs can have similar effects, but amphetamines are less severe than meth. Even at the same dosages, less amphetamine gets into the brain than meth does.
If your teen is using stimulants to get high, they may experience:
- Increased concentration and energy
- Enhanced confidence
- An inability to sleep
- Reduced appetite
Once the effects of the drug wear off, they may experience:
- Disturbances to sleep patterns
- Sensitivity to touch
You may notice some changes in your child — signs that they may be abusing these drugs:
- Excessive weight loss
- Disinterest in their hobbies
- Memory problems
- Neglect for work, school or family responsibilities
Effects on the Brain
- Hearing voices
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Effects on the Body
- Increase and/or irregular heartbeat
- Elevated body temperature
- High blood pressure
- Restlessness and/or tremors
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Headaches or dizziness
- Cardiovascular failure
- Growth retardation
If you do not feel ready to make an appointment with the doctor or guidance counselor, you can always call us at TheRecoveryVillage.com. It’s totally free to speak with one of our treatment professionals, and everything that you discuss will be kept confidential. We can help you sort through the pain of the situation, and figure out what needs to be done in order to bring your child back to health. We can answer your questions about insurance coverage for rehab, recommend fully vetted facilities that specialize in teen addiction, or simply listen to you.
Reaching out for help may be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. But your child is worth it. Call TheRecoveryVillage.com today. There’s no judgment, no costs, and no obligations — just help.
Give your child the treatment and care they deserve.
Speak with one of our devoted addiction specialists today to take that next step.
- “Amphetamine Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Warnings.” Drugs.com: Prescription Drug Information, Interactions & Side Effects. Drugs.com, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. http://www.drugs.com/amphetamine.html
- Ackerman, McCarton. “Study Finds Stimulant Abuse Often Starts In High School, Not College.” The Fix. The Fix, 8 June 2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. https://www.thefix.com/content/study-finds-stimulant-abuse-often-starts-high-school-not-college
- Hall, Darien A., Jessica J. Stanis, Hector M. Avila, and Joshua M. Gulley. “A Comparison of Amphetamine- and Methamphetamine-induced Locomotor Activity in Rats: Evidence for Qualitative Differences in Behavior.” PubMed Central. National Institutes of Health, 17 Sept. 2007. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2423722/
- “Burning the Candle at Both Ends — Using Stimulant Drugs to Study.” Go Ask Alice! The Trustees of Columbia University, 6 Dec. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/burning-candle-both-ends-%E2%80%94-using-stimulant-drugs-study
- Brown, Nancy. “Stimulants: Risky Health Issues for Teens.” Doctors, Patient Care, Health Education, Medical Research | PAMF. Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. http://www.pamf.org/teen/risk/drugs/stimulants/
- “Prescription Stimulants.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. http://www.drugfree.org/drug-guide/prescription-stimulants/
- “Prescription Drugs.” Above the Influence. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. http://abovetheinfluence.com/drugs/prescription/
- Morris, Susan Y. “Adderall Vs. Ritalin: What’s the Difference?” Healthline. Healthline Media, 1 Oct. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. http://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/adderall-vs-ritalin#WhichOne?4
- “Ephedra.” NCCIH. National Institutes of Health, 5 Jan. 2016. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/ephedra
- “Ephedrine – Side Effects, Uses, Dosage, Overdose, Pregnancy, Alcohol.” RxWiki. RxWiki, Inc., 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. http://www.rxwiki.com/ephedrine
- “Caffeine and Headache.” Cleveland Clinic. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 29 Dec. 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Overview_of_Headaches_in_Adults/hic_Caffeine_and_Headache
- “Treatment For Stimulant Addiction And Depression, Anxiety, ADHD Dual Diagnosis Program.” Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. UCLA Dual Diagnosis Program, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. https://www.semel.ucla.edu/dual-diagnosis-program/Conditions_Treated/Stimulant_Addictions
- “Drug Fact Sheet: Stimulants.” DEA Drug Fact Sheets. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2016. http://www.dea.gov/druginfo/drug_data_sheets/Stimulants.pdf
- “ADD / ADHD Medications: Are ADHD Drugs Right for You or Your Child?” HelpGuide.org – A Trusted Non-profit Guide to Mental Health and Well-being. Helpguide.org, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2016. http://www.helpguide.org/articles/add-adhd/attention-deficit-disorder-adhd-medications.htm
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