Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

ADHD Prescription Drug Abuse Doubles ER Visits

ADHD Medication Abuse: More and more children in the United States are receiving an ADHD diagnosis, and many take ADHD medications well into their teens. Unfortunately, as their bodies change, so does their body chemistry, and medications often stop working the way they once did. Though ADHD meds once worked to help them calm down and focus, in adults, these same medications produce a stimulant high and are very widely abused. Some teens abuse ADHD medications them in order to stay up for days at a time, to complete a school project, or to study for the SAT, while others simply sell their medication to overachieving students and abuse them on occasion for recreational purposes.

The practice of abusing ADHD medications like Adderall and Vyvanse is becoming more and more of problem. The number of visits to the emergency room more than doubled in the five-year period between 2005 and 2010, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The number of ER visits caused by the non-medical use of ADHD meds almost tripled during the same period of time.

In 2005, little more than 13,000 emergency room visits reported were caused by ADHD medications. By 2010, that number had skyrocketed to more than 31,000, according to Newswise. The non-medical use of ADHD medications increased from 5,200+ to 15,500+ during the same time period.

The evidence shows that teens often are not abusing ADHD drugs alone. Many are using other illicit substances as well. It was found that about 45 percent of the ER visits described above also included the use of other prescription drugs and 21 percent included other illicit substances while 19 percent involved alcohol abuse as well.

In a news release, Pamela S. Hyde, an administrator at SAMHSA, said, “ADHD medications, when properly prescribed and used, can be of enormous benefit to those suffering from ADHD, but like any other medication, they can pose serious risks—particularly when they are misused. This study indicates that a better job has to be done alerting all segments of society—not just the young—that misuse of these medications is extremely dangerous.”

Many parents don’t realize that their teen’s experience with their ADHD medication is changing and teens who are inclined to take advantage of the situation may not be forthcoming with the information. The onus is on parents and prescribing doctors to pay attention to the signs of stimulant drug abuse (e.g., not sleeping for days at a time, agitation and irritability, extreme weight loss) and to intervene immediately if the signs of drug abuse are there.

Contact us today at Muir Wood to learn more about how you can help your son avoid abusing ADHD medications and other drugs of abuse. Our counselors are available to assist you now.