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Teens Abusing ADHD Drugs - Poison Control Center Calls Rose 76 Percent

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, August 24, 2009 2:29 PM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: ADHD, Attention Deficity, Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin, Stimulants

The rise in ADHD drug abuse corresponds to the rise in prescriptions for the stimulants.


IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto/ pencil case & drugs/ author: TACrafts

Getting Drugs From Friends

Teens are abusing drugs prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to researchers who surveyed calls coming into poison control centers over a seven-year period.

Calls coming into the American Association of Poison Control Centers concerning ADHD drugs rose 76 percent from 1998 to 2005. It is unknown whether these teenagers were actually diagnosed with ADHD, reports Associated Press.

What is known by researchers with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is the teens reported experiencing agitation, a rapid heartbeat, and dangerously high blood pressure. Often the calls came in from worried parents and emergency room doctors. Four deaths resulted from the drug use.

Incidents jumped from 330 calls annually to 581, according to the study published in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The drug users were between the ages of 13-to-19.

"We looked at all the poison control centers across the nation and found a significant increase in the number of calls for ADHD medication abuse that parallels the amount of prescriptions being written," said Dr. Jennifer Setlik, an emergency physician at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio and a study author to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC).

“The sharp increase, out of proportion to other poison center calls, suggests a rising problem with teen ADHD stimulant medication abuse,” the report concludes.

Interestingly, the rise in reports echoes the rise in ADHD medication prescriptions for teenagers from four to eight million prescriptions during that time.

The actual number of teens abusing ADHD drugs is thought to be higher because many abuses are not called into poison control centers.

How are they getting the drugs? Dr. Alanna Levine, American Academy of Pediatrics tells CBS News, “I think most commonly from friends, they give them out. They say this is helping me let it help you out.”

The study reports that next to marijuana, prescription drugs are used by teens to get high.

Dr. Levine says ADHD medications can be used to enhance performance, help kids study, and to lose weight. Some kids reportedly crush and snort the pills which can also produce a sense of euphoria or buzz, along with the dangerous side effects.

Parents "need to be aware of the potential for the abuse of these medications for teens that have and haven't been prescribed them," says Dr. Setlik, who recommends parents keep an eye on the amount of drug their child is using if they receive it in a prescription.

Drugs for ADHD are stimulants and include Ritalin, Concerta, and Adderall.

Between eight and 12 percent of children are diagnosed with ADHD, as well as four percent of adults.

Stimulants provide users with the ability to focus. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that the median age of the onset of ADHD symptoms is seven years for most children, but the disorder can continue into adulthood. Stimulants increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. The chemical is associated with pleasure, movement, and attention.

A study published last June in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests there may be an association between the use of stimulant medications prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and sudden cardiac death in healthy children. #

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