The Adderall Boom Among Students
According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, ADHD is now the most frequently diagnosed mental illness among US teens and adolescents. More than 16 million prescriptions per year are issued in the US for amphetamines like Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Dexedrine. With the increased everyday use of these drugs for legitimate medical purposes, there is an increased perception that they are safe.
With almost 4 million teens and young adults currently taking Adderall and similar drugs prescribed by their doctors, casual use has grown among young people. According to a series of studies, somewhere between 8 and 35 percent of college students have used someone else’s prescription amphetamines or taken more than the prescribed dose of their own amphetamines.
While these drugs are relatively safe when taken as prescribed, abuse can lead to addiction in up to 10 percent of cases. Students are at particularly high risk of abuse, due to a perception that taking Adderall to pass tests is normal, and because of the belief that these drugs are safe. In fact, when taken in larger doses than prescribed, or when taken without medical supervision, prescription amphetamines can be as powerful and dangerous as street drugs like methamphetamine.
What Parents Can Do
Through early intervention, educating themselves and knowing what to look for, parents can play a key role in preventing Adderall addiction. Some things parents can do include:
- Many students begin abusing prescription amphetamines as teenagers. Take the time to educate your teens about the dangers of taking Adderall without a prescription. Make sure they know they can come to you if they ever do end up with a problem.
- If possible, watch your teen’s spending habits. If they start withdrawing large amounts of cash, they may have a problem with drugs or alcohol.
- Many colleges and universities offer programs for parents to be informed of any drug or alcohol-related incidents. You can speak with your teen’s admissions office for information on their specific programs.
- Many students who start abusing drugs like Adderall don’t fit the stereotype of students who abuse drugs. They may be athletes looking for added focus in practice. They may be academic high-achievers who feel pressured to get an A instead of an A-. Psychologists recommend that parents communicate with their teen about grades before and during their time in school, and make sure that they don’t feel too pressured to achieve straight A’s. College is stressful enough without added parental pressure, and this kind of pressure is one of the most common drivers of amphetamine abuse. In fact, college students are twice as likely as non-student peers to abuse Adderall.
- Keep an eye out for the most common symptoms of amphetamine abuse. These can include insomnia, increased irritability, nervousness and restlessness, being more talkative than usual, risk-taking behavior and sudden weight loss. No single one of these symptoms necessarily means that your teen is abusing Adderall, but if more than one of them is happening, you may want to speak to them or, if they’re still a minor, their doctor.