Adderall Abuse Rising Among Young People, Hopkins Finds

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In 2014, Oriole Chris Davis was suspended for 25 games after testing positive for Adderall. He’s not the only one recreationally using the an amphetamine used to treat ADHD; according to new research out of Johns Hopkins, an increasing number of young people are abusing the drug.

Researchers looked at the number of Adderall prescriptions written nationwide, as well as the number of emergency room visits that were Adderall related. They found that between 2006 and 2011, the number of prescriptions for young adults (aged 18-25) was unchanged, while the number of drug-related hospitalizations rose by an alarming 156 percent. According to self-reported drug surveys, young people’s use of Adderall went up 67 percent during that period. At the same time, adolescents under age 18 saw a decline in hospitalizations. The results indicate that it’s college students who are at most risk of Adderall abuse, something that’s not surprising considering the drug’s reputation as a study aid.

“Our sense is that a sizeable proportion of those who use them believe these medications make them smarter and more capable of studying,” said study co-author Ramin Mojtabai, a professor of mental health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. “We need to educate this group that there could be serious adverse effects from taking these drugs and we don’t know much at all about their long-term health effects.”


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  1. Like many things in life, I think the national conversation about stimulant use in children (and adults) would benefit from some honesty and transparency about exactly what the medication does/is for. Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse are all stimulants, much like the “black beauties” that people took for studying or recreation when I was in college (a million years ago). Anecdotally, I was told 13 years ago that if my daughter didn’t actually “have” ADD/ADHD, then the medication (Ritalin/Adderall) wouldn’t “work” for her. I do not believe that that is so — I think that some people don’t actually like the way they “feel” when on stimulants, but I believe that stimulants “work” for everyone — any of us would perform better in school if we were able to take them. My biggest issue with the meds though, if I could only choose one, is that I have witnessed what happens when a young person ties all of his or her success to that medication — it can be a huge emotional and psychological dependency, one that can last a lifetime — or worse, one that can lead to addiction and even death. I know there are many differing opinions about stimulant use, and I do not mean to sound self-righteous — this is just from my personal experience. Thanks Fishbowl, for opening the conversation.

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