Tag Archives: adolescents

Teen Prescription Drug Misuse: Are Stimulants Worth the Risk?

prescrpition drug misuse

 

Prescription stimulant drugs can be safely used to treat certain medical conditions such as ADHD, narcolepsy, and depression. However, many young adults misuse drugs that are not prescribed to them to boost their grades, get ‘high’ or curb their appetites. A recent study by the University of Michigan Medical School found that almost 1% of American teenagers ages 16-19 began misusing stimulant prescription drugs in 2014. In that same year The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 13.9% of high school seniors used a prescription drug for nonmedical reasons. These startling facts show that nonmedical prescription drug use is more common among high school students than many believe.

This may be due to teen’s lack of knowledge of the dangers of misusing these drugs. NIDA cites increased blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, high body temperatures, and decreased sleep and appetite as a few of the side effects of taking prescription stimulants. Long term use can lead to addiction, chronic high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat. While teens and young adults find the benefits of these drugs common knowledge, the risks are much less publicized. This has lead teens to see prescription stimulants as safer than street drugs, which can lead to the dangerous habit of mixing with alcohol, or other drugs/ medications.

But what many young adults don’t know is that the grade- boosting benefits of ‘study drugs’ are largely ambiguous. A University of Pennsylvania study found mixed results of actual performance enhancement and the National Institute on Drug Abuse cites that, though stimulants promote wakefulness, they do not enhance cognitive abilities for people who do not have ADHD. To reduce initial use and possible addiction to prescription drugs, teens need to be aware of the very real risks and dubious benefits of these drugs.

Luckily, more resources are being used to give teens this knowledge. NIDA’s current campaign to prevent prescription drug abuse is PEERx, and interactive web-based program that offers updated scientific data, intervention models, and community outreach tools to give teens the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. Drugfreeworld.org, though less user friendly, has a darker, more impactful tone as it gives relevant facts about prescription drug misuse and its side effects. By targeting middle and high school students with these preventative sources, these organizations are working toward reducing initial prescription drug misuse, which is the first step on the long road toward reduced drug use overall.

By Corinne Hauck

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Lockdowns, the Norm for Children Living in the 21st Century

By Michelle Silver

Sadly, school shootings have become a topic we discuss all too often.  Gone are the days you could send your children to school on the school bus and know they would be safe for the day.  But what changes have taken place over the past 20 years that have turned innocent children into killers?  Who deserves the blame—the individual, parents, society?  It is easiest to blame the killer for taking the lives of others.  However, perhaps environmental characteristics provide more insight about what has led to the increased number of school shootings over the past two decades.

Schools are places within communities that nearly everybody has a connection to in one way or another.  Overall, they represent academic growth and positive youth development, however, they are also the locations where many people have some of their first negative encounters (Hall & Friedman, 2013).  Schools provide access to many people at one time, which can present an ideal situation for a shooter if he/she wants to harm as many people as possible.

Students that commit school shootings are frequently labeled as troubled individuals that are bullied or social outcasts. Oftentimes they have family and peer relationship problems and mental health issues.  Combine that with a large school setting where they are largely ignored by teachers and students and it can be a recipe for disaster.  Fatal school shootings are more common in urban, predominately minority middle-high schools that are publicly funded.  Only  2 out of 134 school shootings since 1966 took place at private schools (De Apodaca, Brighton, Perkins, Jackson, & Steege, 2012).  Researchers hypothesize this to be the case because of more homogeneity among students in private schools, while public schools tend to bring together a more diverse group.

Despite efforts to increase school safety and a recent $29 million dollar increase from Congress, bringing the total budget to promote school safety up to $140 million dollars, there have been no major decreases in the number of school shootings (Fox News, 2014).  Yet 90% of schools in the US have taken increased security measures since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012, so therefore we are not allocating resources effectively.  Perhaps funds would be more effective if they were used to implement school depression and mental illness screenings for all students, and to develop programs for youth with mental health problems.  All too often mentally unstable individuals get their hands on guns, in which case our prevention efforts fail.  Discussions about firearm possession and usage should also become a routine part of regular physician appointments when talking about other risk behaviors such as drugs and alcohol usage.

While there is no simple answer of who is to blame for the increase in school shootings and no one best way to prevent them, multi-level interventions have great potential.  Due to the increase in individuals with mental health issues slipping through the cracks, our focus must shift to fix the system so that these individuals are identified early, get the help they need, and are not able to get their hands on a gun.

New Texting Crisis Center Hotline: Beneficial or Not?

Is it possible that texting is the new way of helping young adults through tough situations?  Crisis Text Line, a new organization started by Nancy Lublin, receives text messages daily from struggling youth asking for guidance.  The messages zoom through to specialized therapists trained to handle traumatic situations.  Kids are given answers, and more importantly, someone to talk to who will emphasize and use the mode of communication most relevant to their lives. The issues range from divorce to sexual abuse and nothing comes lightly.

On the surface, there’s not a lot to complain about.  Kids need help and if there are people able to quickly reply to their needs, what could  be missing?  I see it as modern society attempting to bridge the gap that so often exists between the mental health resources available in the community and the youth that act too “cool” to reach out and take advantage of them.  I think this will be a great excuse to get some data collected on how youth are reaching out for help.  Are they more comfortable using texting to receive guidance?  Or is this too impersonal?  I think, as of now, my opinion is that this Crisis Center will be a gateway to bigger and better modes of online/convenience therapy.  Texting is great for quick answers, but can it really solve the underlying teenage angst that exists and persists?  Will it create too much of a “casual” atmosphere for serious issues, making them seem less important or down-playing the necessity of actually going in and seeing a therapist?

My question for fellow researchers and critics looking at the new texting crisis center is this: how can we be sure that this method of quick, real-time therapy actually works?  I was perusing their website and found that they have data scientists, engineers, and other very focused individuals working for the organization to make it reliable and trustworthy for the kids using the texting.  But how is success measured?  With a lack of direct contact, although the confidentiality aspect is important and necessary for the mission of the organization, who is managing what is happening to these kids when they stop texting?  Can it even be monitored?

Despite all the questions presented, I believe this is a step in the right direction.  We’ll see where technology takes us in the coming years, but for now, many youth are glad they have a confidential, convenient, modern, place to share their feelings or even just to talk to someone that will respond and will care about how they are doing.  Sometimes, that’s enough.