ADHD Drug Abuse Rising Among Teens

Study Shows Increase in Calls to Poison Control Centers Related to ADHD Drugs

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 24, 2009 -- The abuse of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs by teenagers is growing, according to a new study.

Researchers found calls to poison control centers for adolescent ADHD prescription drug abuse increased out of proportion to other poison center calls in recent years, which suggests a growing problem with abuse of these stimulant drugs.

The study, published in Pediatrics, tracked calls to U.S. poison control centers from 1998 to 2005 among 13- to 19-year-olds.

"Calls related to teenaged victims of prescription ADHD medication abuse rose 76%, which is faster than calls for victims of substance abuse generally and teen substance abuse," write researcher Jennifer Setlik, MD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and colleagues.

ADHD affects between 8% and 12% of children and 4% of adults worldwide, and there has been a significant increase in the sale of stimulant drugs designed to treat the condition in recent years.

Overall, researchers say the sharp rise in ADHD drug abuse mirrored a similar increase in the prescription numbers among teens, but the abuse of certain types of ADHD drugs is outpacing sales.

There are two main types of stimulant ADHD drugs: methylphenidates and amphetamines.

During the eight-year study period, calls by teens to poison control centers for all types of stimulant ADHD drug abuse rose by 76%. During the same period, prescriptions for these medications for 10- to 19-year-olds rose by 86%.

But the percentage of poison center calls related to amphetamine ADHD drugs, such as Adderall, rose from 22% to 70%, which outpaced sales of these ADHD drugs.

Researchers say most adolescents use their ADHD drugs appropriately, but the growing popularity of these drugs is fueling a similar growth in the abuse of these drugs because more have access to the medicine.

SOURCES: Setlik, J. Pediatrics, September 2009; vol 124: pp 875-880. News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.

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