Just when, as a parent, you think you've got this drug thing with your kids handled, they come up with something else to put themselves at risk and make you begin worrying about them all over again.
The most recent trend now, according to reports, is for students to snort - yes, snort - attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs before taking academic exams, not for the high necessarily but to get a better score.
In schools all across the country, students bent on getting better scores on SAT exams and others are snorting ADHD amphetamines like Adderall before tests to help them focus, as well as during late-night study sessions and other times when they are preparing for a test.
The drug does more than just help jolt them awake in the mornings as they got ready to take the make-or-break marathon college preparatory tests; it gives them a laser-like focusing ability that is just right for that kind of situation.
And worse, Big Pharma and the nation's healthcare industry is playing right along.
The pills are all over the place
Around the country, the fierce competition for admission to the better colleges has encouraged students to abuse these amphetamines, according to students, parents and doctors who spoke with the paper.
Once rare in high schools though common in a number of college and graduate schools, teens say they can get the pills from a number of sources - friends, student dealers or, in some cases, from doctors after faking symptoms to parents and physicians.
"It's throughout all the private schools here" in New York, DeAnsin Parker, a psychologist who treats a number of adolescents from affluent neighborhoods, told the paper.
"It's not as if there is one school where this is the culture. This is the culture," Parker said.
Gary Boggs, a special agent for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), added, "We're seeing it all over the United States." DEA figures say 29 percent of teens say they have close friends who abuse drugs like Adderall and Ritalin.
As if the practice itself wasn't serious enough, the medications themselves are. The DEA lists prescription stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse (amphetamines) and Ritalin and Focalin (methylphenidates) as Class 2 controlled substances, which is the same as cocaine and morphine, because of high addiction rates for drugs with medical uses.
That compares with, say, Valium, which is a Class 4 drug, though it, too, has been long abused.
Federal officials also say that what few teens probably realize is that even giving the pills away to a friend is considered the same by the government as selling it, and as such constitutes a felony.
Does your work for you
People who actually have ADHD are calmed by these drugs, but people who don't have the disorder find that they are capable of jolting them with an energy and ability to focus that can get them through marathon study sessions, as well as hours-long exams.
"It's like it does your work for you," William, a recent graduate of the Birch Wathen Lenox School in New York City, told The New York Times.
But, as is usually the case, abuse of these drugs has a distinct downside as well. Long-time abusers of prescription stimulants can lead to bouts of depression and mood swings (from sleep deprivation) that can be quite severe. In addition, abusers can develop heart arrhythmias and acute exhaustion or even psychosis during withdrawal, according to experts.
Among the young, there is very little researchers know about the long-term effects. Not only that but drug counselors have said prescription amphetamines can become gateway drugs to abuse of other medications such as painkillers and sleep aids.
Is getting into a better college really worth your health? Far too many teens apparently think so.
What does putting that kind of pressure on our young people say about our society?
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