“I found my teenager is taking speed: now what?”
As a parent, it can be terrifying to discover that your teen is taking amphetamines without your knowledge, and it’s crucial to be informed about the risks and realities of amphetamine use, Adderall misuse, and prescription drug abuse among teenagers.
At Evolve, we specialize in teen and adolescent care. This guide aims to provide comprehensive insights into the world of amphetamines and their impact on teens. From understanding what amphetamines are to recognizing the signs of misuse and supporting recovery, this guide is an essential resource for parents navigating these challenges.
What Are Amphetamines?
Amphetamines are a class of stimulant drugs that affect the central nervous system. Originally developed for medical purposes, they are often used to treat conditions like neurodiversity and ADHD, as well as narcolepsy. However, their ability to increase energy, concentration, and alertness has led to widespread misuse, particularly among teenagers.
Types of Amphetamines
How do you know if the drugs your teen is taking are amphetamines? The amphetamine family includes several substances, like:
- Amphetamine Sulfate: A stimulant drug used primarily in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
- Dextroamphetamine: A potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy, known for its higher potency compared to other amphetamines.
- Methamphetamine: A highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system, commonly known as meth and used both medically and illicitly.
- Adderall: A prescription medication containing a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, used primarily to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
- Phentermine: A prescription drug used as an appetite suppressant for short-term management of obesity, often in combination with topiramate.
- MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly): A psychoactive drug primarily used for recreational purposes, known for its euphoric effects and associated with the party scene.
- Ephedrine: A medication and stimulant often used to prevent low blood pressure during spinal anesthesia and also found in various weight loss and energy supplements.
- Methylphenidate: A central nervous system stimulant commonly used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, known under brand names like Ritalin.
- Fenethylline: A psychoactive drug formerly used as a stimulant and cognitive enhancer, known for its combination of amphetamine and theophylline.
Understanding Amphetamine Use in Teens
Teen amphetamine use can vary from prescribed medications like Adderall for ADHD to illicit use of drugs like methamphetamine. Parents should be aware of both legitimate medical use and the potential for misuse, which often goes unnoticed until significant symptoms or behavioral changes occur.
Why Teens Turn to Amphetamines
Teens may use amphetamines for a variety of reasons, ranging from academic pressure to recreational use and peer influence. Understanding these motivations is crucial for addressing the issue effectively. Here are some common reasons teens might use amphetamines:
- Academic Performance: Teens may use amphetamines, such as those prescribed for ADHD (like Adderall), to improve focus and concentration, thereby enhancing their academic performance or coping with heavy workloads.
- Peer Pressure and Social Influence: Teenagers are often highly influenced by their peers. The desire to fit in or succumbing to peer pressure can lead them to experiment with amphetamines.
- Recreational Use and Experimentation: The euphoric and energizing effects of amphetamines can attract teens looking for a recreational high or those curious about experimenting with different substances.
- Athletic Performance: Some teens might use amphetamines to enhance their athletic performance, due to their stimulating effects.
- Weight Loss: Amphetamines suppress appetite, so some teens might use them as a means for weight loss or to manage body image issues.
- Self-Medication: Teens struggling with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or ADHD might use amphetamines to self-medicate, especially if these conditions are undiagnosed or untreated.
- Stress and Coping Mechanism: Facing academic, social, and familial pressures, some teens might turn to amphetamines as a way to cope with stress or escape from problems.
- Accessibility: If there are prescriptions for amphetamines in the household, or if they are easily accessible through peers, teens might be more inclined to use them.
- Lack of Awareness of Risks: Teens might not be fully aware of the potential risks and long-term consequences of amphetamine use, leading them to underestimate the dangers associated with these drugs.
- Rebellion or Risk-Taking Behavior: Adolescence is a time of exploring identity and independence, which can include engaging in risky or rebellious behaviors, such as drug use.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms
Parents ask us all the time, “How to know if my child is taking Adderall?” Identifying whether your child is taking Adderall, especially if it’s not prescribed, involves a combination of observing physical signs, behavioral changes, and other indicators. Here are some key things to look out for:
- Behavioral Changes: Noticeable changes in behavior, such as increased alertness, excessive talkativeness, decreased appetite, or unusual levels of energy, can be signs of Adderall use.
- Physical Signs: Physical symptoms might include dry mouth, dilated pupils, weight loss due to reduced appetite, insomnia, or restlessness.
- Mood Changes: Look for mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or euphoria, as these can be associated with stimulant use.
- Academic Performance: A sudden improvement in grades or focus on schoolwork could be a sign, though this can also be a result of natural development or other factors.
- Social Changes: Changes in friendships or social circles, especially if they start spending time with known drug users, can be a red flag.
- Secretive Behavior: If your child becomes secretive or defensive about their activities or possessions, it could indicate something is amiss.
- Physical Evidence: Finding pills, unfamiliar prescription bottles, or drug paraphernalia among their belongings.
- Health Complaints: Complaints of headaches, stomach issues, or feeling jittery or ‘on edge’ can be side effects of Adderall use.
- Withdrawal Symptoms: Signs of fatigue, depression, or irritability when they haven’t taken the drug, which could indicate dependence.
Alternative Names for Amphetamines
Still unsure about whether your teen is using? Amphetamines go by various names, making them sometimes hard to identify. Keep an eye and an ear out for the following names:
- Adderall (a brand name)
- Dexedrine (a brand name)
- Methamphetamine (commonly referred to as meth)
- Black beauties
- Pep pills
- Truck drivers
- Red birds
- Christmas trees
The Risks and Dangers Involved
Teenagers using or abusing amphetamines face various risks, including addiction, altered brain development, and increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors. Misuse can also lead to severe health issues, like heart problems and neurological damage, and exacerbate underlying mental health conditions.
The Short-Term & Long-Term Effects of Amphetamine Use
Amphetamine use, whether for medical purposes like treating ADHD or through illicit use, can have a range of short-term and long-term effects on the body and mind. It’s important to distinguish between prescribed therapeutic use and misuse or abuse, as the latter can lead to more severe and dangerous effects.
Increased Alertness and Energy: Amphetamines can boost energy levels and alertness, which is why they are used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
Euphoria: The release of dopamine can lead to feelings of pleasure and euphoria, particularly at higher doses.
Improved Concentration: Users often experience improved focus and concentration.
Appetite Suppression: Amphetamines are known to decrease appetite, which can lead to weight loss.
Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: They can cause cardiovascular effects such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
Insomnia: The stimulating effects can lead to difficulties in falling asleep.
Anxiety and Paranoia: High doses or sensitive individuals may experience increased anxiety, restlessness, or even paranoia.
Dependency and Addiction: Prolonged use can lead to physical and psychological dependency, and addiction.
Cardiovascular Damage: Chronic use can lead to increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, and heart attacks.
Mental Health Issues: Long-term use can exacerbate or trigger mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
Cognitive Impairment: Over time, amphetamine abuse can impair cognitive functions and memory.
Weight Loss and Malnutrition: Chronic appetite suppression can lead to significant weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.
Sleep Disorders: Persistent insomnia can develop, disrupting normal sleep patterns.
Neurological Damage: Extended use at high doses can potentially cause long-term neurological damage.
Tolerance: Users may need increasingly larger doses to achieve the same effects, leading to heightened risks of adverse effects.
Preventing Amphetamine Use in Teens
Prevention of drug use involves open communication about the dangers of amphetamines, monitoring prescription drugs for teens, and fostering an environment where teens feel supported. Educating teens about the risks and encouraging healthy stress management techniques are also crucial.
If you suspect your teen is using amphetamines, it’s important to approach this situation sensitively. Accusing your child of drug use can harm your relationship and may not be accurate. If you suspect your child is using Adderall or any other substance, it’s best to talk to them openly and non-judgmentally. Consider also consulting with a healthcare professional for guidance and potential drug testing if necessary. Remember, there could be other explanations for these signs, and professional input is crucial in such scenarios.
Supporting Your Teen in Recovery
If you’ve found out that your teen is using amphetamines illegally, or misusing a prescription, it’s crucial to take action.
First, supporting a teen in recovery from amphetamine drug abuse involves understanding, patience, and ensuring they have access to appropriate amphetamine treatment like therapy, medication for speed withdrawal symptoms, Adderall neurotoxicity treatment, and more. It also helps to create a stable, supportive home environment. Here’s a step-by-step guide to handling the situation:
Step 1: Educate Yourself
Understand what amphetamines are, their effects, risks, and why teens might be drawn to them. Familiarize yourself with the physical, behavioral, and psychological signs of amphetamine misuse.
Step 2: Approach Your Teen Calmly and Supportively
Find a private, quiet time to talk, ensuring there are no distractions. Approach the conversation with calmness and concern, not anger. Express your love and worry rather than accusation or blame.
Step 3: Listen to Your Teen
Ask open-ended questions and listen to their reasons for using. Understanding their perspective is crucial. Respond without judging or shaming, as this can shut down communication.
Step 4: Educate and Discuss Risks
Share information about the risks and long-term effects of amphetamine misuse in an age-appropriate manner. Talk about peer influence and strategies for handling it.
Step 5: Seek Professional Help
Schedule an appointment with a doctor or addiction specialist to assess your teen’s health and discuss treatment options. Engage in family therapy or individual counseling for your teen to address underlying issues and provide support. If your teen needs treatment, reach out to us and our admissions team will walk you through every step of the process.
Step 6: Set Boundaries and Monitor Behavior
Set clear, consistent rules regarding drug use and its consequences. Stay involved in your teen’s life, knowing their friends, whereabouts, and online activities.
Step 7: Support Healthy Alternatives and Coping Strategies
Promote involvement in sports, hobbies, or other interests that provide natural highs and stress relief. Help your teen develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress, anxiety, or peer pressure.
Step 8: Be Supportive and Patient
Offer continuous emotional support. Let them know you’re there for them, no matter what. Remember: recovery and behavior change take time. Be patient and recognize small progress.
Step 9: Take Care of Yourself
Consider joining support groups for parents or seeking counseling to manage your own emotions and stress.
Step 10: Prevent Relapse
Work with your teen and their healthcare provider to create a plan for avoiding relapse. Continue to educate yourself and stay actively involved in your teen’s recovery journey.
Remember, every situation is unique, and what works for one family may not work for another. It’s important to remain flexible, understanding, and supportive throughout this process.
Help Your Teen Recover From Amphetamine Abuse
Evolve offers substance abuse treatment for teens recovering from amphetamine abuse. Our approach includes individual therapy, family counseling, and a focus on building healthy life skills. If your teen is struggling with amphetamine use, contact Evolve for comprehensive and compassionate care. Together, we can support your teen on their journey to recovery and a healthier, drug-free life.