Teen Adderall Abuse: A Parent’s Guide to Prevention and Treatment

What’s the difference between normal Adderall use and a real drug problem? An inside look into teenage patterns of stimulant consumption with tips for parents whose children may already have a problem. More here.

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Adderall Abuse in Teens

Adderall is a commonly prescribed medication that is used to treat the symptoms of ADHD in people who need it. This medication is also a stimulant, which unfortunately can lead teens to try using it for other purposes. But why are teens abusing Adderall? And what can you do if your child seems to have a real problem?

In this article, we’ll take an inside look into teenage patterns of drug use. We also provide guidance for parents whose children may already have a problem. Finally, we invite your question at the end. We do our best to respond to all real-life situations with a personal and prompt reply.

Understand the Different Forms of Abuse

Parents are often surprised to hear that teenagers would experiment with a prescribed medication. But some kids are using Adderall – again and again. Who is taking Adderall?

Adderall abuse can happen in teens that take the medication on a regular basis, or a teen may get it from a friend and try taking it without a prescription. Adderall’s stimulating effects are intriguing to teens who have heard on the street that it can be used to do things such as help them stay up late to cram for a test. Alternatively, your teen may abuse Adderall by taking more of their medication than the doctor prescribed.

Since the abuse of this medication can take several different forms, it is important to talk to your teen’s doctor if you notice that they are taking more of the drug than they are supposed to. In some instances, abusing Adderall could be a sign that your teen’s current medication plan is not working to manage their ADHD symptoms.

Recognize the Signs of Adderall Misuse

Parents should be aware that teens who take Adderall correctly may experience regular side effects, such as fatigue or constipation. However, you should be concerned if you notice that your teen exhibits behavior that varies drastically from their normal ADHD symptoms. If your teen does not have ADHD, then you may notice signs of Adderall abuse such as:

  • having excessive amounts of energy
  • experiencing insomnia

Teens who are abusing Adderall may also exhibit secretive behavior like they would with any other drug. For instance, your teen may suddenly start hiding their medication bottles or refuse to explain why they seem so hyper.

Prevent Inappropriate Use of Prescriptions

When used appropriately, Adderall has many benefits for teens with ADHD. However, teens may experience the temptation to abuse the drug, especially if your teen is dealing with peer pressure. They may be asked to share or sell their pills. Friends may even pressure your teen to crush or snort Adderall. The bottom line is: Adderall is considered a street drug by teenagers that enjoy side effects such as having increased energy.

To prevent the inappropriate use of Adderall, monitor your teen’s use of the medication. Keep track of how many pills your teen is prescribed, and count them to make sure that none are missing. You may also need to store the medication in a locked cabinet and distribute it to your teen according to their treatment plan. This way, they are not tempted to abuse the drug themselves or try to sell it to their peers at school.

Identify Appropriate Treatment Strategies

Managing an addiction to a prescribed substance requires a special approach. This is because your teen may actually need to take Adderall to manage their ADHD symptoms. When this happens, it is important to talk to your teen’s physician and seek counseling to help them manage their behavior.

For some teens, it may be necessary to stop taking the medication completely while they learn how to manage their ADHD symptoms in other ways. For others, prescribing a lower dose of Adderall may be beneficial as they continue to work on managing their emotions in other ways. Since this is a complicated decision, it is best made with the assistance of your teen’s treatment team.

Find Out the Underlying Causes for Drug Abuse

There are many reasons why a teenager may turn to drug abuse. Finding out the underlying cause is helpful for both preventing and treating addiction.

For example, your teen may be using Adderall because they have low self-esteem and want to fit in with their peers. Alternatively, your teen could have depression, and they like how Adderall gives them a boost of energy. Try to remember that your teen may not realize all of the dangers that are associated with taking a medication incorrectly. Therefore, they may try to self-medicate other mood disorders that should be treated by a professional mental health care team.

Fortunately, helping your teen open up about their problems to their counselor can help them identify the true reasons why they are choosing to abuse Adderall.

Help Your Teen Stay Busy with Healthy Activities

How can you support a teen who is new to addiction recovery? Finding healthy ways to spend their time helps teens overcome any addiction. The truth is that teens who are engaged in wholesome activities, such as sports, arts, or drama, are less likely to abuse drugs. This is because these types of activities allow teens to express their emotions in healthy ways.

Finding new hobbies also surrounds teens by other kids who prefer doing healthy activities over drugs. Since your teen may have been spending large amounts of time abusing Adderall, you will need to help them replace those hours with something that is better for them. As your teen works through their treatment program, help them stay involved in healthy activities, such as creative writing or hiking, so that they learn to manage their emotions in better ways.

Maintain Sobriety with Ongoing Treatment

If your teen has developed an addiction, it is important to recognize the importance of ongoing treatment. While many teens need inpatient treatment to manage their withdrawal symptoms, outpatient treatment may be necessary to help them stay sober. After your teen returns home, help them stay on track of their sobriety by taking them to their counseling sessions. This way, they can address any new mental health issues before they interfere with their sobriety.

Questions about Adderall and Teens

While it may be hard to believe, teens do abuse prescription drugs. Whether your teen has a prescription for Adderall themselves, or you believe that they might try using someone else’s pills, it is important to stay on top of it as a parent. By focusing on preventing Adderall abuse, you can help your teen stay healthy and avoid falling prey to addiction.

Got a question? Please leave us your questions in the comments section. Or, let us know how you’ve managed to support your child in recovery. We love to hear from our readers!

About the author
Dr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY17766), a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist and a Certified Youth Residential Treatment Administrator. Dr. Nalin is the Founder and Clinical Director of Paradigm Malibu and Paradigm San Francisco Adolescent Treatment Centers. He has been responsible for the direct care of young people at multiple institutions of learning including; The Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of California at San Diego, Santa Monica College, and Pacific University. He was instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.
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