Dr. Meredith Grossman: How Stimulant Abuse Interferes With Development Of Coping l The Partnership

As a clinical psychologist, I see many adolescents
who are facing the stresses of school, and through our conversations,
it is often revealed that adolescents are taking ADHD medications that they’re not
prescribed to–to help enhance studying, be able to concentrate for longer,
be more effective, to sleep less. Teens are very emotionally sensitive. They’re really experiencing a lot of these stressors which elicit a lot of strong
emotion for the first time. And what happens is when they’re doing anything
to try to negate that process that doesn’t involve a healthy adaptive coping
mechanism, they are messing up the learning cycle. So essentially, if they’re feeling really
anxious it’s okay to be stressed and it’s actually ok to not do the
best on a test. That’s actually a good learning experience in life. It’s normal to feel anxious and go to a party,
but if they feel anxious, go to a party and then
take a Xanax and see that they feel better, what they’re reinforcing is, ‘I need
to do something in order to not experience this strong negative emotion.’ Every time you don’t risk failure, you don’t experience some kind of perceived failure
rate, it reinforces the use of this medication. And what happens is over time that continues
to build, and it really creates adults that have a hard time
dealing with failure, right, are scared and continue to live in high-pressure
situations without healthy adaptive coping mechanisms in place. So kids will report to me taking Adderall and to them it does not seem harmful
at all in the short term, even though we know that it is, and then essentially
what will happen is they become desensitized and then Xanax doesn’t
seem harmful, too, and then they’ll report, ‘I was drinking and someone gave me
a Xanax so I tried it’–and then it was a Percocet, right, or a Vicodin. It makes this easy transition into using other
prescription drugs and for somebody with a family history of addiction, this can
be extremely dangerous because you’re basically feeding into the addiction model,
which is: ‘I feel bad, so I take this. I feel stressed, I take an Adderall. I feel super anxious, I take a Xanax.’ Right? ‘I feel socially anxious, I have a drink.’ Whatever it is, it’s feeding into that model, and for somebody with the family history
that can sometimes then be also compounded with maybe a pre-existing condition,
such as an anxiety disorder, the combination really can set the stage for
dependency which can lead into addiction.

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