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