Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sue Scheff: ADHD Drug Abuse

Source: Connect with Kids

“In a way that athletes have used steroids and other medications in the past to enhance their athletic performance, Adderall is actually being used to kind of pseudo-enhance their academic performance.”

– Heather Hayes, M.Ed., Counselor.

Nineteen-year-old Marisa McCorkle has been using Adderall for two years.

“I use it for various reasons,” she says, “like tests, it helps me on tests. [And it] helps me stay awake, and [with] studying.”

It sounds like a wonder drug. Adderall – an amphetamine commonly used to treat ADHD. But, studies show it’s being abused more and more.

“In a way that athletes have used steroids and other medications in the past to enhance their athletic performance, Adderall is actually being used to kind of pseudo-enhance their academic performance,” states Heather Hayes, a licensed professional counselor.

One of the biggest problems with using the drug recreationally is that most teens are unaware of its dangers.

Twenty-year-old “Dave,” a college student, says, “I think it’s pretty safe unless you’re taking five at a time.”

But experts say even in small doses, the dangers of taking Adderall can range from headaches, increased heart rate and insomnia to things far worse.

“Any amphetamine has the potential to give someone an amphetamine psychosis,” warns Hayes. “So when you take a lot of amphetamines and you’re not sleeping, then you will literally hallucinate. … [You] will absolutely leave reality and become delusional and paranoid.”

Hayes says parents need to make the dangers of taking Adderall clear to teens. Otherwise, they may continue to believe it’s a cheap and easily available drug that helps them study. Marisa and Dave are examples of students with this belief.

“I get it for free, but I know people who will give … maybe two to five dollars [per pill],” says Marisa.

“Actually, I’m gonna go to my doctor and, uh, try to get a prescription next semester,” says Dave, “’cause I think it’s a really effective way to get good grades. I wouldn’t think it was that hard to, uh, fake having ADD.”

But others say Adderall fools you – that it only seems like it’s helping kids study. Amanda Mattison, 17, has seen first-hand what can happen.

“[Students taking Adderall] can focus when they’re taking it, and they study and they cram for five or six hours and they’re good-to-go for the exam,” she says, “but by the time the exam rolls around, they’re either too worn out or … it’s lost it’s effect.”

“Bottom line,” says Hayes, “Adderall is as dangerous of a drug when unsupervised as any other medication. It’s addictive and it is dangerous.”

Tips for Parents

Adderall, manufactured by Shire Pharmaceuticals Group of the United Kingdom, is a stimulant prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Shire states, “Adderall isn't intended to enhance test scores and should only be used under medical supervision.”

Adderall is a fast-acting mixture of amphetamines. Amphetamines act on the brain by mimicking the neurotransmitter dopamine, which increases alertness and concentration. Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health in the late 1970s found that low-dose stimulants increase concentration and alertness in everyone, not just people with attention disorders. Here are some things to know about ADHD:

ADHD is a medical condition linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Doctors believe it stems from biological, not environmental, conditions.

Generally, people with ADHD have trouble focusing on tasks or subjects, and they may act impulsively and often get in trouble.

Approximately 3 to 7 percent of school-age children and 4 percent of adults suffer from ADHD.
Adderall is one of a handful of stimulants prescribed for ADHD.

Side effects of Adderall can include loss of appetite, insomnia and weight loss.

During late-night study marathons, students from grade school to med school have long relied on stimulants– which include everything from caffeine to cocaine. But with Adderall, and other similar prescription drugs, some high school and college students are hoping to improve scores on standardized (and even classroom) tests. Other students are turning to alternative medicine, such as hypnosis or herbal supplements, for an extra edge.

The concern with Adderall is not from a single use. One pill won’t kill you. But one pill is likely to lead to a second pill, then a third and a subsequent snowball effect where physical damage can occur. Also, Adderall is relatively easy to obtain. Overall, prescriptions for stimulants have risen from 1.6 million in 2000 to 2.6 million a month in 2004. Adderall XR, a once-a-day, extended-release form of the drug, is the leader in its class, capturing about a third of the market. Consider the following:

Prescription drug use was once rare, but it has now crossed into the mainstream.

Prescriptive amphetamines have figured prominently in calls to emergency departments and poison control centers.

Kids, and even their parents, are desperate for any available academic edge and willing to go to the extreme to obtain it.

Some students feel extra pressure because they feel they are not just failing themselves, but also failing their parents and other family members.

The College Board, the nonprofit administrator of the SAT, has no rules explicitly prohibiting drug use. Spokeswoman Chiara Coletti says, "We certainly do not recommend that students take any drugs or stimulants in hopes of affecting their scores."

Some kids taking Adderall have valid prescriptions, but not all. Under federal law, it's illegal to knowingly possess a "schedule II" drug (like Adderall) without a prescription. But prosecutions for possession are rare.

Many schools would suspend or expel a student caught using marijuana or other street drugs but might not punish students taking prescription drugs to help with test taking.

ADHD Support and Resources from Eli Lily
National Institutes of Health
Nature Magazine
Shire Pharmaceuticals Group
The Wall Street Journal

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sue Scheff - Teen Drug Prevention - D.A.R.E.

D.A.R.E. - Drug Abuse Resistance Education has been known for many years and has helped been part of many schools in helping children learn the dangers of drug abuse. As a parent, take some time to review their newly updated information and website. It is important that parents and educators work together to help prevent drug use.

This year millions of school children around the world will benefit from D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), the highly acclaimed program that gives kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence.

D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and has proven so successful that it is now being implemented in 75 percent of our nation’s school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world.

D.A.R.E. is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through 12th grade how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sue Scheff: Inhalant Abuse Prevention Kit

In 2004, the Alliance for Consumer Education launched ITS Inhalant Abuse Prevention Kit at a national press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC. The kit was successfully tested in 6 pilot states across the country. Currently, ACE’s Inhalant Abuse Prevention Kit is in all 50 states. Furthermore, the Kit is in its third printing due to high demands.

The Kit is intended for presentations to adult audiences. Specifically parents of elementary and middle school children, so they can talk to their children about the dangers and risks associated with Inhalants. We base the program on data from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Statistics show that parents talking to their kids about drugs decrease the risk of the kids trying a drug.

The Inhalant Abuse Prevention Kit contains 4 components: the Facilitator’s Guide, a FAQ sheet, an interactive PowerPoint presentation, and a “What Every Parent Needs to Know about Inhalant Abuse” brochure. Additionally, there are 4 printable posters for classroom use, presentations, etc.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sue Scheff - Where do Teen Turn for Medical Advice

“I had irritation in my special ‘no-no’ place. And that was a question that I wasn’t going to ask my mom.”

– Sheaele, Age 17

So where do teenagers like Sheaele turn when they want a health question answered? Sometimes friends, sometimes teachers… and according to a new survey, nearly half of teens are now going to the Internet to look for medical information.

“If it was a personal problem that I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anybody about, I would probably just look it up online,” says 18-year-old Joe.

But the information teens find on web sites may not always be accurate. Experts say to help a child avoid bad information, parents should do their own search of teen-friendly medical web sites.

Check them out. Then suggest the ones you like to your teen.

“Internet sites that do that, just give clear health information … I think that would be probably a good idea,” says Dr. Dawn Swaby-Ellis, a pediatrician.

But experts have an even better idea for parents: Find a real-life doctor their teen can trust.

“The best guarantee for growing up a healthy, secure, communicative adolescent is for that adolescent to have a constant relationship with a health practitioner over time,” says Dr. Swaby-Ellis.

Because while a doctor can promise teens the privacy they want, unlike the Internet, a doctor can also alert parents in the case of a serious health issue.

“If there’s anything at all that we hear, during an interview with a child alone that sounds like they’re in trouble,” says Swaby-Ellis, then we’ll certainly let (the parent) know.”

Tips for Parents
Previous studies have found that over 60 million Americans use the Internet for health and medical information. Teens make up a sizeable portion of this number; the Project estimates 45% of all children under the age of 18 have Internet access.

Health-related web sites that targeted teens are appearing on the Internet. Sites such as:
THINK (Teenage Health Interactive Network)
Teen Growth
These sites are like interactive magazines written specifically for teens. Headlines from a recent ZapHealth page include: “My Friend's Acne” and “Guilt about Drinking.” Other topics on the site include “getting the dirt on important issues like kissing, piercing and buying condoms.”

In addition to articles, these web sites offer:

Information and advice on general, sexual and emotional health
Information on fitness and sports
Family issues
Chat rooms where teens can talk with others with similar concerns
Bulletin boards where teens can post questions and receive answers from health care professionals
Links to other resources

It’s easy, quick and convenient. An added appeal of these sites is that teens can get information anonymously, without having to talk to anyone. The Pew Project says that 16% of web health seekers do so to get information about a sensitive health topic that is difficult to talk about.

Although a teen can get answers to some questions on these sites, the sites caution teens that they are not a substitute for regular healthcare; teens should see their healthcare providers as needed.

ZapHealth also urges children under 18 to talk with their parents or guardians about any health or emotional issues.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project