School Climate & Safety

Students Pop Pills to Beat the Pressure

By Liana Loewus — June 13, 2012 1 min read

A New York Times article chronicles the disturbing—and seemingly growing—trend of prescription stimulant abuse among ambitious high school students.

According to the Times, the use of pills prescribed for A.D.H.D.—i.e., Adderall, Concerta, Focalin, and Vyvanse—among teenagers at competitive high schools has gone from “rare to routine.” Students say they get the pills from friends or student dealers “or fake symptoms to their parents and doctors to get prescriptions.”

One young woman who used stimulants in high school and still occasionally does as an Ivy League student explains that using drugs “wasn’t that hard of a decision. ... Do I want only four hours of sleep and be a mess, and then underperform on the test and then in field hockey? Or make the teachers happy and the coach happy and get good grades, get into a good college and make my parents happy?” Another student refers to getting a prescription for Adderall from his doctor as “the Golden Ticket.” A high school junior recalls that “right before everybody took the PSATs, a bunch of kids went to the bathroom to snort their Addies.”

The article quotes parents, students, social workers, district leaders, and physicians—but, somewhat curiously, no teachers. Which got us wondering: Are teachers aware of an uptick in stimulant abuse in schools? What are the clues that students are using? And, how might teachers help combat this problem—or should that battle be left to doctors and parents?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.