Medications, Teens, and Drug Use


Believing misinformation, disinformation, myths, and lies can be more damaging than having no information at all. The purpose of this web page is to dispel some common misconceptions about teens, drugs, and medications.

Myth: If a teen is using drugs, the parent will usually be able to tell.

Fact: As strange as it may seem, parents are usually not aware that their teen is using alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs. The mental defense mechanism of denial is usually in play, saving the parent from the agony of realizing the unacceptable. By the time that the parent is forced to believe, the teen is already facing serious, if not irrevocable, consequences. This is a natural phenomenon and does not mean that these parents are abnormal in any way.

Myth: Teens are going to use drugs and alcohol anyway so we might as well accept it.

Fact: Parents who hold this attitude increase the likelihood of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use, abuse, and dependence in their offspring. Teens do have the ability to make a choice to abstain from maladaptive behaviors such as experimentation with alcohol, drugs, and the like. Parents have the responsibility to reinforce good choices and tell our progeny that we believe in their ability to make right choices. This does not mean that parents should blindly trust.

Myth: Medications are used to turn children into zombies so that teachers won’t have to work as hard.

Fact: Teachers are concerned with teaching and learning. Over-sedation impairs learning. Professionals who treat children receive reports from teachers, counselors, and school officials when children are experiencing a side effect of sedation as well as when attentional, behavioral, or emotional problems impair learning.

Myth: Teens who take medications with an addictive potential are prone to abuse them.

Fact: Teens who are taking a medication that is appropriate for their illness actually a tendency to take less medication than is prescribed. Teens who are afflicted with certain psychiatric illnesses do not ‘get high’ from their medications – the reverse is actually the case.

Myth: Teens taking medications are more likely to have motor vehicle accidents.

Fact: Teens who are suffering from a psychiatric illness actually have fewer motor vehicle accidents when they are responding to the medication that is treating the illness. The absence of appropriate medical treatment results in greater numbers of accidents than in the general population.

Myth: Medications cause teens not to learn adaptive skills.

Fact: The reverse is actually the case. The lack of appropriate medication treatment of psychiatric disorders results in the impairment of the ability to apply new or established adaptive coping skills.

Myth: A teen has to be crazy to need a medication to treat a mental illness.

Fact: Very few people with mental illness manifest bizarre behavior or have symptoms that most individuals would consider strange. Most individuals with a psychiatric difficulty have symptoms such as depression, nervousness, concentration problems, or impaired work and school performance. Many mental illnesses and emotional problems can be treated with psychotherapy alone. Most people who take a medication for a mental illness would not be considered to be ‘crazy’ by their friends, family, or society.

Myth: Medication use predisposes to chemical dependence.

Fact: Recent studies have proven that appropriate medication for the treatment of ADHD, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, or other mental malady actually decreases drug/alcohol use, abuse, and dependence. When these illnesses are not treated, there is an increased incidence of chemical dependence problems.

Myth: There is no difference between drugs and medications.

Fact: There are numerous differences between illicit drugs and medications. Medications are scrutinized by the FDA to insure public safety – illicit drugs even in their purest forms would not pass safety requirements. Adulterants are known to be present in the illicit drug supply rendering these toxic substances even more dangerous.

Myth: There are no signs of early drug use in teens.

Fact: The following is a list of associated signs and symptoms or alcohol, drug, tobacco abuse. While none of these symptoms are 100% accurate in detecting. They suggest that the parent should take a closer look. If any four are present, a professional consultation is advisable.

  • Sustained appetite change
  • Frequent episodes of nausea and vomiting
  • Frequent moodiness
  • Episodes of shaking
  • Decreased activity level
  • Becoming sloppier
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Becoming clumsy or slow
  • Mood swings
  • Constant hostility toward parents
  • Deterioration in conduct
  • Lack of attention to personal hygiene
  • Constant hostility toward authority figures
  • Deterioration in grades
  • Constant hostility toward police
  • Excessive daydreaming
  • Bizarre thinking
  • Frequent disregard of rules
  • Eye redness with treatment refusal
  • Frequent school detentions
  • Avoiding introducing friends to parents
  • Use of incense or room deodorizer
  • Changing friends to a ‘bad crowd’
  • Deterioration in school attendance
  • Arrest by police for any reason
  • Feeling suspicious of others
  • Confusion
  • Slurred Speech
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

Myth: Using medications is an excuse to avoid appropriate discipline.

Fact: Teens with psychiatric disturbances may have difficulty adhering to parental, school, and societal expectations. When medications are indicated for the diagnosed illness, discipline becomes possible and more effective. A teen who is appropriately medicated but not taught discipline will be medicated but undisciplined.