We started this series discussing teen drug use and designer drugs. Now we’ll talk a bit about stimulants. These consist of a wide variety of substances, but some are easier to get than others. A great example of a stimulant is that most adults rely on each morning is caffeine.
For this post, I’ll provide an overview of caffeine, prescription ADHD medicines, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
In my clinical practice, I always ask about drug use. I consider caffeine a drug that can be misused and teens always give me a funny look when I ask about how much coffee, cola, or energy drinks they use. For many teens, caffeinated beverages serve as a source of energy for late night studying or performance enhancing on the athletic field. Because it’s so normal to have a mocha or a 5 hour energy drink, they don’t think there’s any harm in taking it. There can be dangers though. First, we don’t exactly know how caffeine affects a developing brain, and our brains aren’t finished maturing until our mid 20’s. Next, caffeine in small doses (like a cup of coffee) can disrupt sleep. Sleep troubles can lead to difficulty concentrating on school work and many other things (see our previous posts on sleep). Finally, caffeine in large doses can lead to cardiac arrhythmia (or irregular heart beat) and that can potentially be fatal.
What can parents do to minimize harmful effects of caffeine? Limit caffeinated beverages to the occasional treat. If your teen does consume caffeine, try to avoid drinking (or eating it) in the afternoon. Also, encourage good sleep hygiene so your teen feels well rested and doesn’t have a desire to use caffeine to stay awake.
ADHD Medications and methamphetamine
Earlier this year, the media was swirling with rumors that Demi moore was hospitalized after using Adderall, a drug often prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Stimulants are a mainstay of treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and consist of various forms of amphetamine (such as Adderall) or methylphenidate (like Ritalin or Concerta). Methamphetamine can be used to treat ADHD too, but is also a street drug. A popular form is crystal meth, it can be smoked, snorted, or injected. According to the Centers for Disease Control YRBSS, a national survey of risky teen behavior, 3.8 % of 9-12th graders have ever used methamphetamine to get high.
These drugs can all cause euphoria and restlessness, making them attractive substances for teens looking to stay awake long hours and obtain a high. They can also be extremely dangerous and in addition to addiction, can lead to elevated heart rate and blood pressure, psychosis, hallucination, diarrhea or constipation, and insomnia.
Cocaine is second only to alcohol for causing the most emergency department visits related to drugs. Cocaine is typically snorted through the nose, but can also be smoked in the form of crack. The CDC also has information on cocaine use with 6.8% of 9-12th graders reporting use of cocaine. Side effects of cocaine include high blood pressure and heart rate, decreased oxygen to heart muscle, irregular heart beat, seizure, coma, and hyperthermia (high body temperature).
So what are signs a teen may be abusing drugs?
- withdrawal from old friends
- dropping grades
- lying or breaking curfew
- drug paraphernalia
- depressed mood
To prevent drug use, talk with your teen regularly about your expectations of their behavior and the dangers of using drugs. Be a role model. If you’re using substances, your teen is likely to think it’s ok for them to use them too. If you are concerned that your teen could be abusing drugs, talk with your child’s medical provider. There is help available for teens. Partnership for a drug free America has good support resources for parents.