ADHD Drug Misuse Prompting More ER Visits


A new study shows an alarming increase in emergency room visits by young adults who misuse a popular prescription known as a “study drug.”

Dr. Sonia Krishna

Dr. Sonia Krishna

And in her experience, a Ascension Seton Mind Institute expert in child and adolescent psychiatry says that two-thirds of the time those who misuse Adderall got the pills from friends or relatives with prescriptions.

Other times, according to Dr. Sonia Krishna, young people are getting attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) prescriptions for themselves under false pretenses – or they are taking it from friends’ medicine containers.

The study, published this week in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found that emergency room visits linked to misuse of the drug Adderall increased by 67 percent among adults age 18 to 25 between 2006 and 2011. The findings are based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Most problems include anxiety, agitation and insomnia. Depression, suicidal thoughts, psychosis and aggression also are possible from misusing Adderall, Krishna said. Further dangers include heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure.

“It’s interesting that the study found this is not the result of doctors overprescribing Adderall,” Krishna said. “Also, young adults aren’t as commonly using this drug to get high or lose weight, but to focus better on their studies or other work.”

Krishna believes that Adderall use declines as young people reach their mid-20s.

Physician groups have warned against using prescription stimulants to enhance performance at school and work, but it seems the message often is being ignored.

In an earlier study, college students justified their illegal use of ADHD stimulants because they believe the drugs make them smarter. The study also found students know little, if anything, about the side effects.

“We discovered that these students frame stimulant use as both physically harmless and morally acceptable,” the authors concluded.