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With the economy in a downturn and college costs skyrocketing, many students feel increasingly pressured to get top grades at any price. Combined with increasing rates of ADHD diagnosis in children and teens, the use of "study drugs" is ballooning.

Taking Someone Else's Medication is Risky

Children with legitimately diagnosed ADHD receive that diagnosis because there is something going on in their brains that keeps them from having a normal range of concentration and focus.  Doctors typically start medicating at very low doses, slowly increasing the amount until optimal results are reached.  Those receiving the medication are having an imbalance of some kind corrected and too much is as bad as too little.  It takes careful observation over time to determine what the best dosage for each individual.

Taking someone else's prescription means you're jumping into a dosage that has not been personalized to your brain and body chemistry. 

And, if you already have a "normal" attention span, it means that you're already starting out at too much medication since your prescribed dosage should be none.

Too much stimulant use can result in an irregular heartbeat and hyperthermia, or very high body temperatures.  The risk of heart failure or seizures is huge.  Even at minimal usage, stimulants can interfere with normal brain chemistry and cause feelings of paranoia and anger.  As if that isn't bad enough, you can even wind up with side effects when you stop taking stimulants.  Without the extra chemicals flooding your body, you can lose your ability to feel pleasureSuicidal thoughts, anxiety, fatigue, disrupted sleep: all of these can occur after you stop taking stimulants.

How Do I Know if my Child is Using Study Drugs?

Parents should look for tell-tale signs of stimulant abuse such as extreme mood swings, altered sleep patterns, and anxious behavior.  Kids who are using may have trouble remembering things when they don't take the drugs.  They may have some disrupted relationships as old friends who don't use stimulants are replaced by new friends who do.  The occasional late-night study session may evolve into cramming every day, late into the night.

What Can I Do to Keep Abuse from Starting?

Many children who abuse prescription stimulants report that they began doing so because they felt an extreme amount of pressure to perform at the highest level in school.  Unfortunately, a lot of that pressure came from their parents

Some anecdotal reports even suggested that a number of parents subtly encouraged their children to answer diagnostic surveys in ways that would result in an ADHD diagnosis and a prescription for stimulants.

Parents should look at their own words and actions.  What kind of home environment are you creating?  What subtle or not-so-subtle expectations are you setting for your children?  Do you expect your children to succeed at any cost?  Is only the best good enough?  Do your children perhaps see that you use your own method of self-medicating to make it through a long work day or a special project with a tight deadline?

In tough times, it's natural to want to be as competitive as possible.  The side effects, both short and long-term, of stimulant abuse are not worthy means to that end.

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