We are a child-centric society, there is no doubt. Popular psychology has taught us that mean, abusive parents cause untold damage to their children.
ADHD in Children
In an effort to avoid becoming the main topic of future therapy sessions, parents have swung the pendulum the other way and we’ve gone from adult-centered parenting to a child-centered model.
We advocate for the child’s rights and emphasize loving care. So, when our children have trouble at school, act out with poor behavior or act impulsively and impatiently, we seek to help them instead of disciplining them.
Perhaps our shift in societal views on parenting has influenced the increase in diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) over recent years. In past generations, children would have been punished harshly for not sitting still at school or not paying attention. Now, children with ADHD can receive special education services to help them adapt and take medications to ease their symptoms.
But some worry that these big drugs may be harming little bodies.
Powerful stimulants given for ADHD carry a risk for abuse, especially when not taken strictly according to the prescriber’s directions. Dependency and addiction can occur.
Meanwhile, people who do not have the disorder and take these drugs illegally jeopardize their health considerably. Recreational users get a high feeling from snorting and injecting stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall in high doses, yet others use the drugs to get an edge at work or studying in college.
Are Ritalin and Adderall Harming Our Children?
Ritalin and Adderall, commonly prescribed drugs to treat ADHD, seem like powerful stimulants to be giving young children. Some people hear “amphetamines” and think of meth and drug abuse. However, use of medication is far from the same thing as misuse, abuse, and addiction.
What constitutes abuse and misuse of ADD pills?
- Taking more medication than prescribed
- Taking someone else’s medication
- Obtaining stimulants from anyone other than your doctor
- Taking drugs to experience the euphoria
The pleasurable feeling of abusing stimulants fades quickly. In its wake lies longer-lasting negative health issues.
Consequences of Stimulant Abuse, Misuse and Addiction
Abuse, misuse and addiction to stimulants can cause these common health effects:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Elevated blood sugar
- Anger, paranoia, psychosis (going insane)
- Irregular heartbeat and heart failure
- Impaired judgment
Some parents have concerns about whether giving their children medications for ADHD leads to stimulant addiction and other drug use later on. This concern has prompted many studies delving into:
- The correlation between ADHD medications and later drug use
- The addiction risk potential of stimulants in children, adolescents and young adults
- The effects of drugs like Vyvanse and Concerta on children and adults
ADD and Drug Abuse
Several studies have been done on these medications and their effects on children as they grow. The conclusions are twofold:
- Children who take ADHD medications in early childhood over an extended period are at no more risk of developing a later substance abuse problem than other children.
- In fact, since they are already treating their ADHD symptoms, they may be less at risk because the pain of untreated mental health issues often leads to substance abuse.
- Secondly, adolescents who start using stimulants later in adolescence for a short period are at a high risk of substance abuse.
In any case, research reveals a correlation between ADHD, drug abuse and alcoholism. Here are some of the facts researchers have uncovered:
- According to research, Ritalin has a low risk potential for abuse when taken as directed.
- Among people in treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, 25 percent have been diagnosed with ADHD.
- People that have ADHD are 5 to 10 times more likely to develop alcoholism.
- Children with ADHD are more likely to abuse alcohol in their teenage years than those who do not have ADHD.
- There is a link between ADHD, marijuana and other recreational drugs.
Drugs on Campus
Stimulants like Vyvanse and Adderall are among the most popular recreational drugs on college and high school campuses today. The health risks of stimulants change dramatically when the drugs are crushed and snorted instead of taken as directed by someone who actually has the diagnosis of ADHD. The chemical structure is similar to that of crystal meth.
When the powder is inhaled in much higher doses, it quickly stimulates dopamine and norepinephrine production in the brain, giving the user a high and eventually an addiction problem.
These prescription amphetamines have a calming and focusing effect on someone with attention deficit and/or hyperactivity. However, in someone who does not have the disorder, these medications have the reverse effect. They give the user physical and mental energy, fostering a sense of sharpness and strength, perhaps inflated.
Abuse Potential of ADHD Medications
There are other points to consider when factoring the abuse potential of ADHD medication.
For one, if you have a family history of drug abuse or alcoholism, you may be predisposed to developing an addiction. In this case, it may be wiser to avoid amphetamines.
Secondly, if you are a recovering addict and have a medical need for an ADHD medication, it is best to take an extended-release formulation at the lowest acceptable dose. How quickly the body absorbs the drugs will have an impact on how addictive they can be – the slower, the safer.
Despite everything parents try to give their children, devastating substance abuse can happen. At Intervention Helpline, we believe addiction is a family problem. Many well-meaning parents can focus so much on the child-centric philosophy that they become too accepting.
When family dynamics allow adolescents and young adults to continue to abuse drugs or alcohol, there is no motivation for the addict to change. The teen with a substance abuse problem who gets to enjoy a comfortable home life and an addiction will continue to choose both things until someone changes the status quo at home.
Pleading, nagging and threatening don’t work. Waiting for the right job, partner or situation to come into your loved one’s life doesn’t work either. And waiting for the addict to hit rock bottom fails, because in an unwittingly enabling family, the addict never really has the chance to hit bottom.
When a family unites in a loving intervention, stops enabling the addict and starts holding him or her accountable, real change can occur. If your loved one has developed an addiction to a prescription stimulant or another substance, our professional intervention counselors can help.