Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Stimulant Drug Abuse and the Great Grade Chase

For preteens and teens diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it’s common to get a doctor’s prescription for a stimulant medication like Vyvanse or Adderall. Increasingly common among teens who are not diagnosed with ADHD is a request for these and other stimulant medications for the purposes of neuroenhancement, according to American Medical News. More often than not, doctors are agreeing to hand out these highly abusable and addictive medications for this purpose when otherwise unwarranted, to the detriment of the teenager and their overall health and well-being. It’s something that the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) would like to see stopped.

What Is Neuroenhancement?

Taking medication with the sole intent of increasing the ability to focus, study, or remember facts is the definition of neuroenhancement. It sounds harmless enough—even beneficial—but the AAN is staunchly against the practice. They wrote in a recent report that they believe that the augmentation of cognitive ability that is at a normal level does not constitute a good reason to hand out addictive and dangerous drugs to underage kids. Their report was based on the review of hundreds of clinical studies done on the use of these medications in children and teenagers.

Risks of Stimulant Medication in Teens

The primary concern of the AAN focuses on the medical issues. Increased cardiovascular problems and central nervous system disorders are a risk with regular use of these medications. The possibility of the development of addiction is another concern.

William D. Graf, MD, was the lead author of the report for the AAN. He is also a pediatric neurologist at Yale—New Haven Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics and neurology at Yale School of Medicine. He said, “These drugs are being prescribed a lot, and they’re being sold on the street a lot. They’re available, and everyone knows about it.”

It’s not uncommon for teen patients to drug-seek by falsely presenting with the symptoms of ADHD in order to get a prescription. Some keep the medications for themselves; others sell them to other kids who want to use them for the purposes of studying.

Said Graf, “Doctors caring for children and teens have a professional obligation to always protect the best interests of the child, to protect vulnerable populations, and to prevent the misuse of medication. The practice of prescribing these drugs, called neuroenhancements, for healthy [patients] is not justifiable.”

New Definition of Success

Teens who are under pressure to perform at a certain level in order to get into college or do well on tests may be at the highest risk—the type of kid who appears on the surface to be least likely to abuse drugs. If your son is struggling with drug abuse of any kind for any reason, intervention can help them to turn things around. Contact us at Muir Wood today for more information on our experiential, teen-specific rehabilitation program.