, Salem, MA


February 25, 2014

Column: Guard against misuse of ADHD medications

As a medication typically prescribed for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Adderall is just one part of a complete and age-appropriate therapeutic program to treat and manage the key symptoms of ADHD. Used appropriately, Adderall (and a related ADHD medication, Ritalin), has proven effective in improving children’s and adults’ functioning at home, with friends, at school and in the workplace.

However, among all prescription stimulants, Adderall is the most misused. Adderall (amphetamine aspartate; amphetamine sulfate; dextroamphetamine saccharate; dextroamphetamine sulfate) belongs in the same class of drugs as amphetamines (often known on the street as “speed”). Amphetamines stimulate the central nervous system and affect chemicals in the brain that contribute to hyperactivity and reduced impulse control.

According the Center for Diseases Control (CDC), the percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis continues to increase, from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 and to 11 percent in 2011. Deciding if a child has ADHD is a several-step process. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other problems, like anxiety, depression and certain types of learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms. The American Psychological Association’s diagnostic standard for ADHD helps ensure that people are appropriately diagnosed and treated.

The greatest risks occur when these medications are misused, or when patients share their medications with someone who wishes to use the stimulant for non-therapeutic reasons. In high school and on college campuses, we are seeing widespread misuse of the drug, as students with legitimate ADHD diagnoses and prescriptions share their medication with friends who use it as a study aid.

It is dangerous to use any prescribed medication outside of a doctor’s recommendation. For Adderall, misuse can result in sleeplessness, abdominal pain, appetite changes, drug dependence and the potential for an allergic reaction.

Also, when young people learn to control their thinking and emotions via chemicals, including alcohol and marijuana, they are not learning or developing their own strategies for self-control.

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