Every parent wants their child to have a better life than they did, to achieve what they could not, to become someone great. While these expectations of success come from a place of love, they can sometimes result in parents putting too much pressure on their children. That pressure, in turn, can produce long-term psychological damage.
In the case of wealthy families, children are not only pressured to excel in their academics, at sports, in extracurricular activities, and in their social circles, but they are also expected to live up to the family name by getting accepted into Ivy-League schools and pursuing lucrative professions. According to the American Psychological Association, these high expectations can lead to anxiety and depression, which increase the risk of someone developing an addiction.
A recent study conducted by the University of Arizona, found a strong link between socioeconomic status and substance abuse. It showed that young adults who grew up in affluent homes were two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with an addiction. This was especially true when it came to stimulant drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, and cocaine.
Although money provides well-off teens with easier access to addictive substances, it is not the only factor causing the high rates of substance abuse among privileged youth. Psychologists believe that when teens begin feeling that their lives are predetermined they seek some form of escape, which for many becomes drugs or alcohol. Others abuse substances simply to keep up their multiple obligations. Because there are only so many hours in the day, some teens resort to misusing stimulant medications – designed to treat ADHD – to accomplish their many tasks.
While wealthy teens are often expected to meet impossible expectations, they are not the only ones exposed to tremendous amounts of pressure. In elite schools and top universities, the abuse of ADHD medications is common regardless of socioeconomic status. According to an anonymous survey of Ivy League students, one in five students at Ivy League schools misuse prescription stimulant drugs to get ahead academically.
Awareness of this growing concern is crucial. Teens and parents alike need to have more conversations about substance abuse and manage their expectations for the future. With some encouragement from their families, teens can learn to balance everyday responsibilities with their mental wellness and avoid taking life too seriously.