Stimulants (like methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine) are prescription drugs that are often used to treat ADHD. The medicine is safe and won’t cause addiction if it’s taken correctly by the person it was prescribed for. As a matter of fact, experts say that properly treating an ADHDer with stimulants doesn’t lead to increased problems with drug or alcohol abuse later in life.
Some teens, though, say that they’ve been pressured by their peers to give away their ADHD medication. Here are some of the ways that their medicine could be used illegally:
- To stay awake all night to prepare for exams
- As a source of energy for sports
- To lose weight
- As a substitute for cocaine when that illegal drug is unavailable
Someone who uses stimulants when there’s no medical need for it could become much more short-tempered or moody. And if the person also takes drug doses that are too high, it may cause hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there), paranoia (the feeling that the world is “out to get you”) or delusions (strongly-held beliefs that are wrong, and that go against what everyone else knows is true).
Experts aren’t sure whether it’s a good idea to prescribe stimulants for ADHDers who have a known history of drug or alcohol abuse: They suggest looking at the problem on a case-by-case basis. If there’s any question, doctors can prescribe sustained-release ADHD medications instead. Sustained-release drugs aren’t as easy to abuse because they’re harder to crush; that means the person wouldn’t be able to snort or inject the crushed pills. Doctors could also prescribe a different type of drug for ADHD, such as atomoxetine – although it doesn’t work as well as the stimulants.
As always, keep a watchful eye on the storage and use of any drugs that are prescribed for your family members — and talk with your teenagers about whether they’ve experienced any pressure from friends to share their medication. See the lessons “How to Handle ADHD Medications – For Parents and Children” for helpful tips on how to communicate openly with your teenager about medications.