Why We Have Seen an Increase in Teen Stimulant Abuse.

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According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “stimulants are any drug that excites any bodily function, but more specifically those that stimulate the brain and central nervous system.” Releasing copious amounts of the natural chemical dopamine, stimulants heighten energy, alertness, and focus. Teens commonly surrender to the pressures of life with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. The misconception of the “superhuman” effects of stimulants are short-lived and often lead to long-term consequences. Prolonged effects of stimulants include anxiety, rapid mood swings, delusions, sweating, loss of appetite, euphoria, excessive speech, and overall physical exhaustion. Over time, users require higher doses for desired outcomes. Ultimately, the onset of withdrawals from stimulants can lead to extreme fatigue, restlessness, irritability, depression, confusion, and lack of concentration.

Amphetamines were first prescribed in the 1930’s for the treatment of narcolepsy. Eventually, amphetamines would be prescribed, more loosely, for obesity, fatigue, and then abundantly for ADHD. Increasing energy, preventing sleepiness, and producing almost obsessive alertness, stimulants became the remedy. It’s no secret that obesity has been a common problem in North America. The desire for instant gratification produced the development of stimulant drugs. Decreasing appetite, these drugs have been proven to produce quick fix results but not without consequence. Without adequate dietary discipline, these temporary medications have become counterproductive and ineffective long-term. In the early 1990’s the diagnosis of ADHD skyrocketed. New studies flooded parents and doctors with the resources to accurately identify and diagnose this disorder. As amphetamines became the primary treatment for ADHD, stimulants were widely prescribed and were the primary medicinal cure for young adolescents struggling to focus in school. The easy access to such stimulants, along with the intrusion of cocaine in the 80’s, cultivated the widespread explosion of stimulants.

It’s no secret that teens are subjected to immense amounts of pressure to succeed in almost every aspect of life. Society places a high value on academic, social, economic, and athletic achievements. Stimulants can induce long-lasting and seemingly invincible energy. Putting teens at a higher risk for abuse, prescription stimulants are spreading rampantly among the adolescent community. Most teens utilize stimulants to increase overall performance or for the euphoria high produced in conjunction with the drugs. There are many different types of stimulants commonly abused.

Cocaine – Cocaine is an illicit drug, derived from the leaves of the South American coca plant leaves. Drug dealers often cut the drug, for more profit, with talc powders, cornstarch, and even other drugs such as opiates and other stimulants. This combination of unknown mixtures is dangerously addictive.

Methamphetamine – Methamphetamine, also referred to as meth, is a highly potent, synthetic, psychoactive drug. This drug is derived from amphetamine, but much more intense. The side effects of methamphetamine are more severe and produce a higher risk of abuse. The toxic concoction that makes up this street drug are likely to cause grave side effects, horrendous withdrawal symptoms, and are often deadly.

Amphetamines – Amphetamines increase the productivity of the brain’s production of dopamine and norepinephrine, escalating levels of energy, alertness, and focus.

Ephedrine – Ephedrine was originally derived from a chemical in the Asian plant, Ephedra. Commonly used to control breathing conditions, this chemical has also been an ingredient in sport enhancing drugs and weight loss pills.

Caffeine – Caffeine is a common ingredient in migraine medications, pain relievers, and sometimes anti-inflammatory drugs. Most Americans indulge in caffeine upon awakening and prolonged habitual use has led to physical withdrawal such as headaches, lethargy, decreased appetite, and irritability.

As social pressures increase, teens may turn to self-medicating through easily accessible stimulants. From the class clown struggling to focus on the lecture in school to the disorganized and insubordinate troublemaker refusing to follow the rules to the fearful, trauma-ridden teen seeking an escape, stimulants manufacture euphoria, productivity, and alertness. But if abused, these benefits do not come without grave consequence. The rush of euphoria produced can be enticing and ultimately addicting. Uninformed and vulnerable teens can quickly fall prey to the addicting lure of stimulants. Self-medicating or complete oblivion can be tempting, especially to the naive adolescent. Education and open conversations about the dangers of these drugs are quintessential in prevention and abstinence. If you suspect your teen is struggling with substance abuse, do not hesitate to ask hard questions and immediately seek help from professional resources.   

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