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"Ritalin, it was a drug that the kids were abusing and I think that's where she started with prescription drugs."

-Yvonne, mother whose daughter abused prescription drugs.

What are they prescribed for?

Stimulants are prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and include Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), Amphetamine mixed salts
(Adderall), and Methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta).

Youths with prescriptions for ADHD medication may be pressured to sell their medication to other classmates who use them to get high or to study. If your adolescent/young adult has a prescription for an ADHD medication, control the use of the pills. Pills to be taken in school are to be given by the school nurse. Also, don't forget to discuss the serious consequences of sharing drugs with others. It is illegal.

Misusing stimulants

While correct doses of ADHD medications can be extremely helpful, misuse can cause health problems. High doses of stimulants can produce heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, and high blood pressure. An extreme overdose can cause a heart attack or fatal seizure.

Combining stimulants with cold medicines can lead to dangerously high blood pressure or irregular heart rhythms.

Detecting stimulant abuse

One of the most obvious signs of stimulant abuse is an abrupt change in waking and sleeping. If your adolescent/young adult is suddenly wide awake for long periods and then asleep for long periods, it could be a sign of stimulant abuse.

Other signs to look for include:

  • Feelings of paranoia and hostile behavior
  • Headache
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss
  • Exhilaration and manic energy
  • Insomnia followed by long periods of sleep
  • Restlessness shown by fast speech, jumpy hands, high energy, and impatience
    Vomiting

Sources

(1) Partnership for a Drug-Free America. (2010). Drug guide by name.
(2) National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. (n. a.). Stimulants.
(3) National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2011, March). Commonly Abused Drug Chart.
(4) National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2007, February 28). Prescription drug abuse chart.


This information is provided by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services within the Department of Public Health.