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Most Parents Unaware of Teens’ Use of Study Drugs

Most Parents Unaware of Teens' Use of Study DrugsAs students prepare for final exams, some will turn to a prescription amphetamine or other stimulant to gain an academic edge.

Yet a new University of Michigan poll shows only one in 100 parents of teens 13 to 17 years old believes that their teen has used a study drug.

Study drugs often include stimulant medications prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Common drugs abused for this purpose include Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, and Vyvanse.

Researchers discovered that among parents of teens who have not been prescribed a stimulant medication for ADHD, only 1 percent believes their teen has used a study drug to help study or improve grades.

The finding stems from the latest University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

However, recent national data from the Monitoring the Future survey indicates that 10 percent of high school sophomores and 12 percent of high school seniors say they have used an amphetamine or other stimulant medication not prescribed by their doctor.

Experts say that students without ADHD will take someone else’s medication, to try to stay awake and alert and try to improve their scores on exams or assignments.

However, taking study drugs has not been proven to improve students’ grades, and it can be very dangerous to their health, says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

“Taking these medications when they are not prescribed for you can lead to acute exhaustion, abnormal heart rhythms and even confusion and psychosis if the teens get addicted and go into withdrawal,” said Davis.

“What we found in this poll is a clear mismatch between what parents believe and what their kids are reporting. But even though parents may not be recognizing these behaviors in their own kids, this poll also showed that one-half of the parents say they are very concerned about this abuse in their communities,” he said.

White parents were most likely to say they are “very concerned” (54 percent), compared with black (38 percent) and Hispanic/Latino (37 percent) parents.

Despite this concern, only 27 percent of parents polled said they have talked to their teens about using study drugs. Black parents were more likely to have discussed this issue with their teens (41 percent), compared with white (27 percent) or Hispanic (17 percent) parents.

“If we are going to make a dent in this problem, and truly reduce the abuse of these drugs, we need parents, educators, health care professionals and all who interact with teens to be more proactive about discussing the issue,” Davis said.

More than three-quarters of parents polled said they support school policies aimed at stopping abuse of study drugs in middle schools and high schools. Overall, 76 percent of parents said they believe schools should be required to discuss the dangers of ADHD medication abuse.

Moreover, 79 percent of parents support a policy to require students with a prescription for ADHD medications to keep their pills in a secure location such as the school nurse’s office.

This requirement could prohibit students from carrying such drugs which could potentially be shared with, or sold to, other students.

“We know teens may be sharing drugs or spreading the word that these medications can give their grades a boost,” Davis said.

“But the bottom line is that these prescription medications are drugs, and teens who use them without a prescription are taking a serious risk with their health.”

Sourc: University of Michigan

Teenager holding pills in his hand photo by shutterstock.

Most Parents Unaware of Teens’ Use of Study Drugs

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Most Parents Unaware of Teens’ Use of Study Drugs. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 21 May 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.