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Teen Stimulant Abuse

The nuanced experiences, changes, lessons, and challenges that accompany adolescence will be unique to each teen. Teenagers are notorious for making risky decisions, testing limits, and impulsively acting on curiosity. Every teenager is different. The pressures that are placed on teens, both internally and externally can be crushing. It is highly common for young people to experiment with substance use during adolescence. There are a vast number of different substances teens may experiment with and/or abuse. While for some this may seem harmless, for others this may lead to substance abuse. 

Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants increase processes and activities in the body. Stimulant medications are often prescribed to treat health conditions such as narcolepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and in rare cases severe depression. When a teen takes a medication that was not prescribed to him or her, takes a medication in a way that was not intended (i.e. takes more than prescribed, ingests via a method not directed by the prescribing physician, mixes the medication with other substances…etc.) it is considered abuse. The most commonly abused prescription stimulants include Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Adderall. Some teens misuse prescription stimulants as an academic performance enhancer. When taken exactly as prescribed, prescription stimulants can be a helpful and effective medication for teens in need. However, when abused prescription stimulants can lead to the development of substance use disorder and/ or result in severe short and long-term consequences. 

Illegal Stimulants

Two of the most commonly abused illicit stimulants among teenagers include cocaine and methamphetamine (meth), which are both highly addictive in nature. While significantly amplified, cocaine and meth produce similar effects to prescription stimulants. Cocaine and meth are both classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as Schedule II Controlled Substances. According to the DEA these substances are “defined as drugs with high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Cocaine and meth are both illegal substances that are completely unregulated. There are many different manufacturers that produce these substances. Due to the fact that there is no overseeing entity during the manufacturing of these substances, the exact ingredients, potency and formulas are fully left to the discretion of each manufacturer. Furthermore, many manufacturers will regularly adjust their formula and change the additives in their product, which can mean that a consumer may be purchasing different variations of cocaine and/ or meth even if it is purchased from the same manufacturer. Manufacturers have no obligation to disclose the formula, ingredients, or presence of any additives to their consumers. This puts consumers at increased risk for experiencing severe consequences with each use, as it is impossible to have a clear understanding of what exactly is being ingested. Every time a teen takes cocaine and/ or meth he or she increases his or her risk of experiencing a drug overdose, which can lead to death. 

Signs and Symptoms

There are several signs and symptoms a teen struggling with stimulant abuse may exhibit. Some common examples can include any combination of the following, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • High blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors 
  • Paranoia
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyper-focus
  • Anxiety 
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Mood-swings

The severity of symptoms will vary from teen to teen. There are many contributing factors (i.e. the amount of substance regularly abused, the potency of the abused substance, personal health history of the teen, presence of any co morbid disorders, etc.) that will the impact the combination of symptoms experienced as well as the development of long-term effects. Stimulant abuse can cause teen depression, mental and emotional exhaustion, and suicidal thoughts. 

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at or through our contact form.

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