Over Prescribing Prescription Stimulants To America's Children | Parental Prevention Of Addiction
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
"Medications like Adderall or Vyvanse or Ritalin are silencing their innocent voices and preventing them from being their authentic selves." ~Ally Lacey Maguire
First, I want to say that I am not a medical doctor (shocker), and I am only speaking from the perspective of a person in long term recovery. I am, however, well versed when it comes to taking advantage of the system to get what I want. I want to go ahead and say that narcotics, which are abused are not done so by everyone that takes them. Some people have legitimate pain and legitimate attention deficit disorder and may require narcotics such as Adderall or hydrocodone. However, it is safe to say that these medications are over-prescribed,and the effects are misjudged.
I have watched people try to overcome their addiction to Adderall and pain medication and when they start to get the hang of recovery, a craving kicks in and they find a local doctor who will prescribe them whatever they ask for, no questions asked.
In my opinion, Adderall has become as common as multivitamins for a lot of American families. There is so much competition when it comes to athletics and academics and I believe that parents assume that if their child is not reaching some level of perfection then it is time to resort to a highly addictive substance to help them gain an edge. Parents do not knowingly set their children up to become addicted to a drug that negatively impacts the cardiovascular system, raises body temperature, heart rate and can lead to seizures or heart failure (National Institute on Drug Abuse) but either way it seems to be happening. Again, I want to reinforce that this does not go for everyone, but I would like to give parents and future parents some food for thought.
I was at Walgreens recently picking up a prescription and I saw a young college aged girl come in asking for her refill for Adderall. The pharmacist told her that it was too soon to refill, and the girl had a complete meltdown and started cussing out the pharmacist. Everyone felt very uncomfortable and the girl started making calls to her doctor right then and there. She said that midterms were coming up and asked the pharmacists how they expected her to get through the next few weeks if she couldn’t get her medication. I don’t think I have ever related to something more in my life.
This former version of myself was standing right in front of me, and I wanted so much to reach out and offer some sort of support. I was both amused and heartbroken, watching this girl deal with what I can only assume is some sort of addiction or dependence to this substance that I am so familiar with. I can’t say for sure that she was addicted like I was, but I can say that I don’t have a meltdown when my anti-inflammatory is too soon to refill. Pharmacies have turned into a candy shop, maybe not your kind of candy, but definitely mine. And when the candy is not available, there are childlike tantrums and complete devastation.
I have babysat for a few families over the past year and I ran a very, very informal “experiment” to determine the likelihood of children being prescribed some sort of stimulant. What I saw was that 4/5 of the families had at least one child that was prescribed. That means that 80% of the children I was babysitting for were taking some prescription speed. This number is significant and alarming, and it represents what is happening in our society.
Americans consume the vast majority of the global opioid supply (Gusovsky, 2016). We can assume that pain is universal, and surely Americans do not experience the vast majority of pain. So why aren’t other countries dealing with an opioid crisis like we are?Other countries seem to have an aversion to pain medications and have taken different, more holistic approaches. They are less likely to resort to a quick fix solution and try to make use of more holistic wellness.
So why are doctors prescribing medication that could have such a negative impact on their patients? Didn’t they swear to do no harm? Whose fault is it? I wish I had a direct answer for these questions that so many people seem to be asking today. Medicine is just like any other business; evaluations are important, and I can only assume that patient satisfaction ratings play a big part in why doctors over-prescribe.
It is difficult for a doctor to discern between a patient who is experiencing legitimate pain and someone who may be drug-seeking. Pain is something that cannot be seen and can only be reported by the patient himself. People have different tolerances to pain so what may be excruciating to one person, may be tolerable to another.It is much easier for a doctor to write a prescription with a round number, like 30, 60 or 90 quantity then to take the time to really decide and assess what is appropriate and necessary.
I have a personal example of a recent experience I had that shed light on these issues. I experience neck pain, and I had explored so many different options in order to deal with the pain. It is real and it is intense, sometimes debilitating. It has most certainly impacted my quality of life. I decided to do anything it would take, besides resorting to an opiate because I just can’t afford to jeopardize my recovery. It took a large chunk of multiple pay checks in order to fund the injections in my neck to alleviate some of the pain.
Unfortunately, the injection did not work and instead, it irritated the problem. I called the nurse to let her know that the injection was not successful, and I was just trying to schedule a follow up. I left a message and expected a call back. A few hours later I got a notification on my phone from my Walgreens app that said my prescription for 60 hydrocodone was ready to be picked up and it would cost me less than five dollars.
I am a recovering heroin addict, I indicated this on my paperwork. To me, this was careless and cruel. Luckily, I had spent enough time in treatment to know how to navigate this situation, but it was so difficult for me to call the pharmacist and ask them to cancel the prescription, which I knew would help alleviate some of the pain I was experiencing. It also would have most certainly led to a full-blown relapse. I never went back to this doctor. But not everyone has spent 15 months in treatment learning how to deal with these types of scenarios.
Drugs like Adderall and pain killers controlled my life for years. I lost friends, I lost time, I lost opportunities and I lost hope. It took so much effort for me to find recovery. I had to spend a large part of my twenties in a sober living environment just to learn how to navigate life without these prescribed life crutches. It was not easy; I was miserable for a long time and at times I just wanted everything to end. I beg that doctors take the necessary steps to determine whether or not a patient truly requires the narcotic they are considering. I also beg that parents do the necessary research to determine whether or not their child truly needs to be medicated and if it is worth the risk. It is difficult to determine whether or not your child is predisposed to addiction and you may wind up finding out the hard way.
My suggestion to parents is that unless the condition or ailment is truly affecting their quality of life, then just let your child be a child. Let your child be free, and rambunctious and make mistakes. Let them be messy and forget their books every once in a while. Let them forget an assignment or two, show them grace.
Please don’t assume that because your child is forgetful and not doing things perfectly that they need to be medicated. Medications like Adderall or Vyvanse or Ritalin are silencing their innocent voices and preventing them from being their authentic selves.
Article Commissioned By: ARCH Recovery - Statesboro, GA
Individualized Recovery Programs For Men 912.678.4642
Who's The Author:
Ally Lacey Maguire is a student at Georgia Southern University. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in the clinical/mental health counseling program. Ally just celebrated 4 years of recovery and recently got married. Ally enjoys writing about her experiences in active addition and what her recovery looks like today. Ally works for the center for addiction recovery at Georgia Southern University and is passionate about working with others and sharing the message of recovery.
DinaGusovsky. (2016). Americans consume vast majority of the world's opioids.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Prescription Stimulants. Retrieved from
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