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A recent study by the University of Michigan found that 10% of high school sophomores and 12% of high school seniors have taken “study drugs” in an attempt to boost performance on tests or in school.

“Study drugs” are widely believed to increase focus and enable clear thinking. They include stimulants, like Ritalin and Adderall, commonly prescribed to do just that for individuals with ADHD. CNN reports that that as many as 30% of college students have tried Adderall and that it’s easier to obtain on campus than marijuana.

These drugs should not be taken casually, however. Amphetamines like Adderall can produce dependency. In fact, these drugs are listed as Schedule II drugs, which have “the highest abuse potential and dependence profile of all drugs that have medical utility.” In addition, long-term effects of amphetamine use can result in headaches, stomach problems, disordered thinking, mood disorders and even psychosis.

Yet amphetamines are present in high schools across the country. Students for whom Ritalin or Adderall are legitimately prescribed sell pills one at a time. Just as students who are interested is smoking tobacco or marijuana know where to get it, students who want to try a study drug will have no trouble finding it.

And here’s the key difference. Parents who believe their teens are in no danger of smoking marijuana may be the very parents who stress good grades. They may inadvertently apply the sort of pressure that leads a teen to try study drugs. The University of Michigan study found that although 10% to 12% of high school students already take study drugs, only 1% of parents of teens believe study drugs are a problem for their child.

What can you do? First, talk to your child about study drugs, your middle school student as well as high school or college student. Do this even if you believe your child would “never try drugs.” It’s clear that this child – the high-performing student who is busy with school and other activities – may be more susceptible to the lure of amphetamines than other kids.

Second, keep any prescription medications in your home in a secure location and discard unneeded medications promptly. The number-one cause of accidental death in the U.S. is no longer car accidents – it’s overdosing on painkiller medications. Remember that the teen years are years of experimentation without a lot of good sense applied. Keep all medications, including amphetamines and other drugs, out of the reach of even your teen children.

Third, urge your child’s school to keep all medications students might self-administer during the school day under lock and key. Even though high school students for whom Ritalin or Adderall are legitimately prescribed are considered responsible enough to manage their own medication, they may not be able to resist the pressure to share.

Most of all, be aware of the strain your child may be under and your own role in adding to that strain. We all enjoy having high-achieving children who do us proud. But no one wants to raise the bar so high that teens feel overwhelmed.

Be aware… and talk to your teen.

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

We all know that toddlers can be a handful. They don’t pay attention, they flit from one activity to another, they’re always into everything, and they are often defiant and difficult. If an older child acted this way, you might suspect Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD. But what if your child is just two or three?

There is a growing trend to medicate very small children with drugs intended to moderate ADHD behavior. This trend is most pronounced in families of low income, in which the children receive Medicaid assistance. A recent report noted that 15,000 American toddlers are being medicated for ADHD.

But here’s the thing: these medications – most notably Ritalin – have not been proven safe or effective for children so young. In fact, ADHD cannot even be diagnosed in children younger than four, following guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


So if your toddler seems out of control, what can you do?

First, assume that your child’s behavior is within normal ranges for her age. Little kids naturally push the limits because they aren’t really sure what the limits are. They also can’t very well control their impulses and manage their own behavior. So give your child some time to grow into better behavior.

Second, take the time to guide your toddler in developing what little self-control toddlers are capable of. Avoid giving in or using bribes to teach good behavior but also avoid being harsh. Remember that little kids don’t know what to do but need to be gently taught.

Third, give this time. Developing a fully-functioning, thoughtful, and self-disciplined human being doesn’t happen overnight. This development isn’t helped with medication. Remember that a toddler cannot be expected to act like an adult or even like a four-year-old.

Fourth, even if there is a family history of ADHD, be slow to engage in drug therapy. The best, most knowledgeable doctors will recommend behavior guidance at this age and will not jump to a diagnosis of ADHD with a child so young. You should do the same.

Finally, make certain your little one is getting enough sleep and is eating well. Sleep deprivation is a common cause of ADHD-like behavior and eating junk food, including caffeinated drinks and chocolate, affects behavior too.

There are no shortcuts to dealing with toddlers, no quick fix that will suddenly make your family life more serene. Raising children is hard work, requiring thoughtful parenting every day.

Give that to your very young child.



© 2014, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.