Lesson “What You Need to Know About Prescription Stimulants”

First published 2021. To view the latest Heads Up content, click here.

When used as prescribed by a doctor, prescription stimulants safely and effectively help kids with ADHD. But misuse can be very dangerous. Share the article “What You Need to Know About Prescription Stimulants” to help students understand the very real health risks of misusing these drugs. Then assign the “Important Facts About Addiction” activity sheet, and guide students to synthesize what they have learned by creating an eye-catching infographic for other teens.


Science Literacy, English Language Arts, Health/Life Skills

STANDARDS, Grades 6–12:


* Summarize key supporting details of a text


* Analyze how two or more texts address similar
topics in order to build knowledge


* Write informative texts to convey complex
ideas and information clearly and accurately through effective selection and organization of content.


* Information Processing


* Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Cross-Cutting Concept

* Cause and Effect: Mechanism and Prediction



  1. Why is a prescription for stimulants safe for a person with ADHD but not safe for a person without ADHD?
    (Scientists believe that people with ADHD have differences related to the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. Prescription stimulants help boost and balance levels of these chemicals and alleviate ADHD symptoms. Since people without ADHD have different brain chemistry than people with ADHD, the drug affects their brain and body in different and potentially dangerous ways)
  2. How do prescription stimulants help to treat symptoms of ADHD?
    (The drugs help boost and balance levels of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in the brains of people with ADHD; this helps people with ADHD focus.)
  3. Identify three examples of misusing prescription stimulants.
    (Misuse of prescription stimulants includes using them in any way other than prescribed by a doctor. This could mean taking a higher dose than prescribed, using the drugs for reasons other than treating ADHD, or using drugs prescribed to someone else)


  • Grades 6–8:
    Explain why a doctor’s prescription is needed to obtain prescription stimulants.
  • Grades 9–10:
    Imagine your friend is taking prescription stimulants because they believe it helps them study better for tests. Write a letter to your friend explaining why this behavior is risky.
  • Grades 11–12:
    Use what you learned in the article to explain what the illustration in the article communicates. What effects of stimulants are depicted in the illustration?


  • Send
    students links or print copies of the student article and student activity, and instruct them to read independently. (For striving readers, record yourself reading the article aloud and instruct them to follow along with the recording.)
  • Use
    videoconferencing to discuss the reading comprehension questions together as a class.
  • Have
    students complete the student activity on the next page, then create an online folder so they can share their infographics with the class.
  • Wrap
    up the lesson with an online or phone discussion synthesizing what they have learned about the importance of prescription stimulants, but also the dangers of misusing them. What facts did they learn from their classmates’ infographics?

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