More College Students Misusing ADHD Med as Study Aid
Nonmedical use of Adderall and ER visits are up, study says
By Kathleen Doheny
TUESDAY, Feb. 16, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- College students aiming for an academic edge may explain a surge in the misuse of a stimulant commonly prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research suggests.
Among U.S. adults, the number of Adderall prescriptions stayed stable from 2006 to 2011, but misuse of the drug jumped 67 percent and related visits to emergency rooms went up by 156 percent, researchers found.
"The majority of adults who are using Adderall nonmedically are in the age range of 18 to 25," said lead researcher Dr. Ramin Mojtabai, a professor of mental health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Most get the pills from friends or relatives who have prescriptions, the study found.
Mojtabai and his team suspect college students use Adderall to help them stay up all night to cram for exams. Similarly, young working adults may use it to stay sharp and focused on the job, he said.
Also, "it's possible some of this use is recreational," said Mojtabai. "There's a pattern of concomitant use of other substances in about half of these adults."
Whatever the reason, the use of amphetamines, including Adderall, can lead to dependence, sudden death and serious cardiovascular events, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which requires a "black box" warning on the drug packaging.
"They are not harmless simply because they are prescribed by doctors," said study co-author Dr. Lian-Yu Chen, an attending psychiatrist at Taipei City Psychiatric Center in Taiwan. Among the possible cardiovascular effects are high blood pressure and stroke, Chen noted.
People with ADHD are often prescribed stimulant drugs and/or behavioral therapy to help them focus, reduce their hyperactivity and curb their impulsivity.
Researchers looked at U.S. trends from 2006 through 2011, spurred by concern about misuse of the stimulants among children and teens. They analyzed three national surveys -- one on doctor visits, one on drug use and another on ER visits -- to track use of the stimulants Adderall (dextroamphetamine-amphetamine) and Ritalin/Concerta (methylphenidate). Ritalin is also commonly prescribed for ADHD.