Stress. Anxiety. Boredom. Unrealistic expectations. Do you know what your teen is keeping bottled up inside? When the pressures of everyday life meet the availability of prescription stimulants, your teen may be in harm’s way.
Medications such as Adderall®, Ritalin®, Concerta®, or Dexedrine®, when prescribed by a doctor, can help manage symptoms of ADHD. But some teens are taking stimulants not prescribed to them. The reasons may vary from using as a study aid to avoiding boredom. The most common source of these drugs is their own friends or family members. Talk to your teen about their bottled up feelings and the serious risks of taking medication that isn’t prescribed.
Prescription Drug Misuse
One in six teens have used stimulants that are not prescribed to them. Almost one in three teens believe using drugs not prescribed to them is safer than using street drugs. (MIYHS, 2019) Teens, and even some parents, may think that since a doctor prescribed the drug to someone, it must be safe for everyone. That is simply not true. A doctor manages the patient’s health carefully to determine the medically safe dose and usage. Sharing or misusing prescription drugs is very risky. The truth is misusing prescription stimulants can be as dangerous as the use of illegal drugs.
Teens who have never talked with their parents about prescription stimulants are more likely to misuse them.Make sure your teen knows that using drugs not prescribed to them is not okay with you. While you’re at it, check in on their stress. Is the pressure too much? Are they bottling up their feelings? Stress and unrealistic expectations can trigger misuse of prescription medications. Check in with your teen often.
Set the record straight with your teen and talk openly about health conditions treated with prescription stimulant medications including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Depression. Make sure your teen knows that when prescribed by a doctor for a specific health condition, prescription medications can be safe and effective. If your teen is being treated for a health condition with prescription stimulants, it is very important that you or their doctor clearly tell them to never share their medications.
Risks to Teens
Misuse of prescription medications has many risks. Teens may believe these medications are safe because they’re prescribed by a doctor to someone they know. In fact, the easiest way for a teen to get a prescription stimulant is through a friend or family member. Combine drug availability with teens’ bottled up emotions and stress and the risk gets even higher.
Teens who believe prescription stimulants are safer than street drugs are more likely to misuse them. Prescription medication misuse can lead to the use of other substances including alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs. Teens may not understand the risks of misusing or sharing prescription stimulants which include:
- Emotional harm
- Mental health issues
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sleep problems
- Use of other substances
- Increased risky behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
- Dependency & Addiction
Safe Storage of Medication
To prevent misuse of prescription drugs, make sure they’re not readily available. Safely store prescription medications at all times. If a teen lives with you, all medications should be locked away and stored securely.
Establish clear rules about prescription medications in your home. Talk to your teen about the importance of making safe, healthy choices. Make it clear that misusing medications not prescribed to you is never okay. Be sure to always model that behavior with no exceptions. For example, a sports injury is not an excuse to provide pain medication not prescribed to your child.
Talk to your teen about their thoughts on prescription drugs. Let them know they are not always safer than street drugs. Let them know there is no excuse to misuse or share prescription stimulants.
Your Safe and Secure Home:
- Keep medications up and out of sight
- Put medications back away after use
- Properly dispose of old medicines
- Lock up prescription medications securely around teens
- Keep track of all medicines in your home
- Always set a good example
- Establish clear rules
- Talk to your teen
Tips on Communicating with Your Teen
A teen’s job is to create separation and become their own person. That stage naturally comes with conflict and miscommunication. A healthy parent-teen relationship can really help as your teen becomes a young adult. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it.
- Listen with all your heart. Rather than focusing on what to say to your teen, put your energy into really listening without interruption to what they are saying and also what they are not saying. Listen to their words as well as their mood, body language, and feelings.
- Offer empathy. We all feel better when someone can relate to our feelings. Your teen needs that too. If you can listen to their situation and tell them you know how they feel, their burden will lessen. Share a time when you felt the same or tell a similar story.
- Stop giving lectures. It takes a lot of trust for teens to open up to their parents. When that moment happens, resist the urge to teach them a lesson. Just listen and empathize because that is what they need.
- Slip in a chat. Heart to heart talks with full eye contact happen a lot…in the movies. In real life, your teen is more likely to open up if they are busy with an activity like driving the car, raking leaves, or even doing their make up. Take advantage of these moments to check in.
- Show love. The language of love is a powerful healer. Sometimes just saying or texting, “I love you” goes a long way with your teen. Or maybe it’s a hug or making their favorite meal. Remember actions sometimes speak louder than words and can really show you care.