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Teen Use of Stimulants for ADHD on the Rise

Study Shows More Teens Are Getting Prescriptions to Treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Side Effects of ADHD Drugs continued...

"One needs to be attentive to side effects, especially cardiac effects in a patient who has heart problems," Vitiello says. "They are being used more and more and this means that people are accepting their drawbacks and risks."

There have been reports of a rise in prescription drug abuse -- and stimulants typically place high on the list of drugs that may be abused.

"There is ongoing concern that these drugs may not be used properly, especially when they are prescribed to college students or children in their late adolescence who are more in charge of their care and may not be using the medications as prescribed," he says. The study did not look at these issues.

There is always that issue of stimulant misuse, says Marshall Teitelbaum, MD, a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist in private practice in Jupiter, Fla. The abuse may be a result of what happens to medications that are left unattended in medicine cabinets, he says.

"Stimulants are still the most effective and commonly used medications that we have to treat ADHD," he says. "If we didn't have stimulants for ADHD, we would not be treating the vast majority of patients to our best ability."

It makes sense that the rate of stimulant use is low among preschool-aged kids, he says. "The younger the child, the more careful you are with medications in general. There are kids who are younger than 5 with ADHD and we would rather try behavioral techniques first before turning to any medication."

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