This post was developed in collaboration with Adlon Therapeutics L.P, a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma L.P. Personal opinions expressed within this post are my own.
As if life isn’t complicated enough with some kids returning to regular classrooms and others learning virtually from home, we, as parents, have plenty to worry about. Will our child keep up academically with all of the stressors in life? Will his or her ADHD prevent them from focusing on a computer screen all day?
Kids with ADHD do best when their day is structured, and as a parent, it’s often up to us to help our kids by teaching them how to use a schedule, planner, and time management apps. It can be exhausting for both, especially if you, too, have ADHD!
But there’s more to school than getting an academic education.
Whether your child is at home during school hours, socializing (carefully) after homework is done, or if he or she is attending classes at their brick and mortar school, it’s important to keep in mind that if they are taking prescribed stimulant medication for their ADHD, parents need to be watchful and proactive.
Even if your child is a young adult living away from home attending college, otherwise separate from you, or going through a vulnerable stage of life, take note:
Young people do, indeed, act reckless at times. Add ADHD to the mix, and there’s even more concern.
With ADHD comes impulsivity, hyperactivity, and often, impaired judgment., Poor social skills and a need to feel part of the group is often part of the picture. Their need to be accepted by their peers can create a lot of problems for your child, especially in adolescents and young adults, who are beginning to carve their own independent paths towards adulthood.
As parents, we need to impart an understanding to our kids of the importance of safe and responsible use of their prescribed ADHD medications, particularly (but not solely) stimulant medications. Our kids need to understand that stimulant medications have a high potential for abuse, which is why they are classified as Schedule ll controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and that classmates, friends, and others, can create a vast life-altering problem by wanting to buy or borrow a pill or two…or more.
Students often misuse ADHD medications by taking them in ways other than how they were prescribed, or by borrowing, buying, or stealing medications from those who have been prescribed by medical professionals to treat their ADHD. This can lead to some major, major problems for both parties. Remember, many kids with ADHD often will go to great lengths to make and maintain friendships. And offering up their stimulant medications, even to friends, can be incredibly dangerous, not to mention, illegal.
It’s important for parents and kids alike to remember that stimulant drugs are classified as Schedule ll drugs, and for good reason:
Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.4
You may have seen stories in the media about what high school and college students are doing when parents or caregivers aren’t around, like selling stimulant medications, giving their prescriptions to friends to “help” with upcoming exams or to get high.
Whether you believe these stories or think they might be overstating the problem, they can be concerning for any parent to read.
I’ve been researching to educate myself and my readers, and it’s become more clear to me: there is a huge problem in our high schools and colleges and parents need to take note and take action.
For a very long time, I (a mother with ADHD who has a young adult child with ADHD), dismissed most of the ra-ra I read, about students selling their prescription medications at school and at their college campus. I thought these articles were overblown and the hype was just more myths I needed to squelch. But I’ve since changed my tune after exploring the problem more deeply and pouring over reputable sources.
Yes, we do have a problem, so let’s take a deeper look.
In a recent study, it was reported that 7% of U.S high school seniors engaged in misuse of prescription stimulants for studying purposes.
The 2018 College Prescription Drug Study (CPDS) estimated that 15.9% of college students had misused stimulant drugs.
As you can see, there is a real problem here and we can no longer turn a blind eye.
What’s a Parent to Do?
For starters, educate yourself and don’t pretend that your child knows how to handle situations that can get him into trouble.
It’s imperative to talk to your kids about the importance of safe and responsible use of stimulant medications, and the earlier the better, but it’s not always easy to do.
Good news! There is a series of online videos that I think will help. Adlon Therapeutics L.P. and the Prescription Drug Safety Network created resources I highly recommend for both you and your student. They have launched engaging, educational interactive videos plus a short digital course, to encourage safe and responsible use of prescription stimulant medications.
I would recommend you watch them along with your child or college student as a starting point for discussing ways for them to learn how to use good judgment in situations where they could inadvertently find themselves in trouble due to simply not knowing how to handle themselves amongst their peers.
Check out the video series at http://adlontherapeutics.com/supporting-responsible-stimulant-use/.
I’d suggest you watch them first before sharing them with your child, and then be available to him or her for open discussions. Do re-visit these videos to reinforce the helpful messages and tips. Bonus: there is also a short and engaging digital course there.
Kids and college students with ADHD need the reinforcement of these positive and helpful messages. They can even practice these exercises with you so that if/when they are in a situation where they are asked for a pill or two, they’ll be ready to respond in a pro-active way and less likely to impulsively give in to the requests.
So, get your kids packed up for school: backpacks, school supplies, dorm furniture, etc., but also empower them with information on how to stay safe when it comes to managing their prescription medications. All it takes is one impulsive misstep to get them into legal trouble, or worse.
 National Institute of Mental Health. Could I have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/could-i-have-adhd/qf-16-3572_153023.pdf. Accessed September 8, 2020.
 Hauser TU, Iannaccone R, Ball J, et al. Role of the medial prefrontal cortex in impaired decision making in juvenile attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(10):1165–1173. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.1093. Accessed September 8, 2020.
 Carpenter Rich E, Loo SK, Yang M, Dang J, Smalley SL. Social functioning difficulties in ADHD: association with PDD risk. Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2009;14(3):329-344. doi:10.1177/1359104508100890. Accessed September 8, 2020.
 United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug scheduling. https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling. Accessed September 8, 2020.
 United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Prescription for disaster: How teens abuse medicine. 2018. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2018-11/DEA_PrescriptionForDisaster-2018ed_508.pdf. Accessed September 8, 2020.
 Faraone, S.V., Rostaine, A.L., Montano, C.B., Mason, O., Antshel, K.M. & Newcorn, J.H. Systematic review: nonmedical use of prescription stimulants: risk factors, outcomes, and risk reduction strategies. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 59(1), 100-112. January 1, 2020. Accessed September 8, 2020
 Teter CJ, DiRaimo CG, West BT, Schepis TS, McCabe SE. Nonmedical use of prescription stimulants among us high school students to help study: Results from a national survey. J Pharm Pract. 2020;33(1):38-47. doi:10.1177/0897190018783887. Accessed September 8, 2020
 Phillips, Erica L. & McDaniel, Anne E. College prescription drug study key findings report. Center for the Study of Student Life, The Ohio State University: Columbus, Ohio. 2018. https://cssl.osu.edu/posts/632320bc-704d-4eef-8bcb-87c83019f2e9/documents/cpds-key-findings-2018.pdf. Accessed September 8, 2020.