With ADHD diagnoses on the rise over the last decade, it should come as no surprise that ADHD medication use, too, is on the rise. In addition to the meds being prescribed to children and adults of all ages, some drugs are also being abused. With abuse comes the risk of danger, though use of stimulant medications recreationally is not the only danger in taking the drugs.
Earlier this month, the New York Times ran an in-depth story on addiction to ADHD medication, and how it led directly to the suicide of a man just out of college. A year earlier, however, the newspaper published an article saying that ADHD medication led to no more addiction problems than any other drug, as the rise in prescriptions has not led to a rise in addiction reports. Additionally, a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients with ADHD who take appropriate medication are less likely to engage in criminal behavior.
That said, statistics show an increase in hospitalizations attributed to taking ADHD medication. That was reflected in a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In 2005, there were 13,379 visits to emergency rooms in the U.S. due to ADHD medication; by 2010, the number had jumped to 31,244. The number of hospitalizations for those under 18 remained largely unchanged, but the number of patients in age brackets 18 to 25 and 25 to 34 each quadrupled. Even patients over the age of 35 saw a significant increase in hospitalizations, increasing from 2,519 hospitalizations in 2005 to 7,957 in 2010.
This data was not limited to those taking the drug with a prescription, the report found. The study stated that roughly 30 percent of hospitalizations were due to recreational use in 2005, rising to half of hospitalization in 2010. Overall, there was an increase of more than 10,000 hospital admissions for people did not have a prescription for the ADHD drugs they consumed.
Interestingly, this data indicates that the highest at-risk group is not necessarily teenagers, who might be most associated with irresponsible behavior. Instead, it's been people in their 20s and older. Of course, this data also just tracks hospitalizations, and not necessarily the rate at which a medication is being used legitimately or abused.
SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde said she hopes the ADHD report will lead to people becoming more educated about ADHD medications. These drugs can be dangerous and this information should not be limited to just teenagers. As a college student from the not-so-distant past, I can confirm that ADHD medications were used recreationally on campus and many users claimed that there were very few – if any – side effects. However, as evidenced by the aforementioned hospitalization data, this wouldn’t seem to be true.
n.p. (2013, January 25). "Sharp Rise In Emergency Department Visits Involving ADHD Medications." Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/255401.php.