Recreational ADHD Drug Use

Prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall, are medications that are used to treat people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Prescription stimulants have a calming and “focusing” effect on individuals with ADHD.

Unfortunately, there is a rumor going around schools that these medications will help students without ADHD learn quicker, focus better, and provide extra energy to study longer. Many students, stressed out from academic pressure, fall prey to these rumors, hoping these drugs will help them to improve their grades. Teens tend to think these medications are safe to use because they are prescribed by doctors. One out of every 5 college students abuses prescription stimulants.

Nothing could be farther than the truth. While prescription stimulants do promote wakefulness, studies have found that they do not enhance learning or thinking ability when taken by people who do not actually have ADHD. Research also shows that students who abuse prescription stimulants have lower GPAs in high school and college than those who don’t.

Most students report prescription stimulants are easily obtained. Teen abusers typically steal the pills from younger siblings or friends, or they simply purchase another teen’s medication. (If your teen is on ADHD prescription, talk to them about not selling their own medication.)

Signs of Use

While prescription stimulants are safe for those with ADHD, using them without a prescription is dangerous. The following are signs of stimulant abuse:

  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Increased heart rate and/or blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes and itching
  • Digestive problems

Repeated abuse of stimulants can lead to feelings of hostility and paranoia. High doses of stimulants can also lead to hallucinations, tremors, and cardiovascular complications, which can be fatal.


Few parents ever believe that their teen could fall prey to a drug problem, but it happens far more often than we can imagine. Parents are the best line of defense in preventing a teen from abusing drugs. Here are a few steps you can take to help prevent substance abuse:

  • Talk to your teen. Teens need ongoing education about the dangers of drug abuse. You should tell your teen about the current trend to abuse ADHD medication and give them the facts as listed above in this article. You might use media coverage of drug abuse as a way to start a conversation.
  • Role model healthy prescription use. Make it clear that everyone should only take medications prescribed to them and discuss the importance of taking medication according to the prescription label, and then, follow through on your words. That means you should not give your friend, who has insomnia, one of your prescription sleep aids, or give your relative with a hurt back one of your old prescription pain killers. Insist other family members and close friends with valid stimulant prescriptions never give medication to anyone else at any time.
  • Store medicine safely. If anyone in your household is prescribed a medication that is commonly abused, such as ADHD medication, keep it locked up and monitor quantities. You should be the sole person responsible for dispensing the medication outside of school. This simply removes the temptation that any teen – yours or your teen’s friends that visit – might feel.
  • Prepare your ADHD teen for pressure to sell. If your teen is on an ADHD medications, talk about the real possibility that someone will ask to buy their medication before high school ends. Explain the dangers, why it’s wrong, and your expectations. During exam time, teens can sell one ADHD pill for $10, which can be a big temptation.
  • Teach healthy coping mechanisms. Teens are vulnerable to trying drugs when they are stressed out. Be proactive and teach your child healthy coping skills, such as those identified in our earlier blog Developing Coping Skills in Teens.
  • Dispose of old prescriptions properly. Don’t keep old prescriptions. When you throw them away in the trash, first mix them with coffee grounds, used kitty litter, or some other gross substance to discourage people finding and using your old drugs. Remove identifying information from old medicine containers, particularly the patient name and prescription numbers.
  • Seek professional help for mental health problems. Teens who are struggling with mental health issues, like an anxiety disorder or depression, are also vulnerable to turn to prescriptions for help. If you suspect your teen has a mental health issue, seek professional help immediately.

Leave a Reply