In recent years, an increasing number of middle and high school students are misusing prescription ADHD medications, with a University of Michigan study indicating that one in four are abusing stimulants. These drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, are commonly used to treat symptoms of ADHD, including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. However, many students are turning to these medications to enhance their academic performance, increase their ability to focus, and stay awake for longer periods of time.
The misuse of stimulants can lead to a false sense of self-confidence and make academic performance worse. These drugs can temporarily increase the ability to focus, and reduce the need for sleep, but are likely to have negative consequences that outweigh any potential benefits.
Stimulants are becoming increasingly common in the treatment of ADHD, but they rank as the most misused prescription drug among teens. The study finds that there is a significant link between legitimate and illicit ADHD drug use. Many kids reportedly acquire the drugs from their peers, which can lead to misuse and addiction.
30mg tablets of Shire Plc’s Adderall XR are arranged in a Cambridge, Massachusetts pharmacy on August 15, 2006. Many middle and high schoolers are abusing ADHD medication to enhance their academic performance and increase their ability to focus. (Photo by Jb Reed/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
The study highlights the need for increased awareness and education about the risks of misusing ADHD medications. Parents, educators, and healthcare providers should work together to ensure that these drugs are only used as prescribed.
Lead author Sean Esteban McCabe notes, “Prescription stimulant therapy for ADHD does help millions of people, including in my own family, and students, friends and colleagues,” but, “it’s critical to balance the need for access to these medications while reducing the risk for misuse. This is more important than ever with the increases in prescribing.”
The study associates using both stimulant and non-stimulant ADHD medications with greater probability of experimenting with cocaine, methamphetamine, and other prescription stimulants, compared to students who were never prescribed these medications. This highlights the potential gateway effect of ADHD medications and the importance of preventing misuse and addiction.
If taken at doses or by methods other than those prescribed by a healthcare provider, stimulants can be addictive. People who abuse the medications for a long period may face serious health risks. Therefore, it is essential to use these medications only under the supervision of a healthcare provider and to follow their prescribed dosages.