At some middle and high schools in the United States, a new study found that 1 in 4 teens reported having abused prescription stimulants for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder within the previous year.
“This is the first national study to look at the non-medical use of prescription stimulants by students in middle and high school, and we found an enormous and wide range of misuse,” said lead author Sean Esteban McCabe, director of the study center. Department of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“In some schools there was little misuse of steroids, while in others more than 25% of students used steroids in non-medical ways,” said McCabe, who is also a professor of nursing at the University of Michigan College of Nursing. “This study is a huge wake-up call.”
Non-medical uses of stimulants can include taking more than a normal dose to get a high, or taking the drug with alcohol or other drugs to get a high, previous studies have found.
Pediatrician Deepa Kamenga, MD, associate director of pediatric programs in the College of Pediatrics, said. Yale Program in Addiction Medicine New Haven, Connecticut.
We know this happens in colleges. One of the key findings of the new study, said Kamenga, who was not involved in the study, is that misuse and sharing of prescription and stimulant drugs occurs in middle and high school, not just in college.
Published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Network Open, the study analyzed data collected between 2005 and 2020 by Monitoring the Future, a federal survey that has measured drug and alcohol use among high school students across the country every year since 1975.
In the data set used in this study, questionnaires were provided to more than 230,000 adolescents in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grade in a nationally representative sample of 3,284 high schools.
Schools with the highest rates Teens who use prescribed ADHD medications The study found that students were 36% more likely to have abused prescription stimulants over the past year. Schools where a small number of students are not currently using such treatments have much less of a problem, McCabe said, but it hasn’t gone away.
“We know the two biggest sources are leftover medication, possibly from family members such as siblings, and asking colleagues who may be attending other schools,” he said.
The study showed that suburban schools in all regions of the United States except the Northeast had higher rates of teen abuse of ADHD medication, as did schools in which one or more parents had a college degree.
Schools with more white students and those with average levels of binge drinking for a student were also more likely to see teens doping.
On an individual level, students who said they had used marijuana in the past 30 days were four times more likely to take ADHD medication than teens who didn’t use cannabis, according to the analysis.
In addition, teens who said they had used ADHD medication currently or in the past were 2.5% more likely to misuse stimulants when compared to The study found that peers who had never used anabolic steroids.
“But these findings weren’t solely driven by ADHD teens misusing their medication,” McCabe said. “We still found a significant association, even when we excluded students who had never been prescribed ADHD.”
Data was collected for the study through 2020. Since then, new stats show prescriptions for steroids rose 10% through 2021 across most age groups. At the same time, there was a nationwide shortage of Adderall, one of the most popular ADHD drugs, leaving many patients Unable to fill or refill their prescriptions.
The stakes are high: Taking stimulant medications incorrectly over time can lead to a stimulant use disorder, which can lead to anxiety, depression, psychosis, and seizures, experts say.
If alcohol or other drugs are overused or combined, there can be surprising health consequences. Side effects can include “paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, and irregular heartbeats, especially if stimulants are taken in large doses or by methods other than swallowing a pill,” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Research has also shown that people who misuse ADHD medications are more likely to develop multiple substance use disorders.
Experts say abuse of stimulant drugs has grown over the past two decades, as more teens are diagnosed and prescribed these drugs – studies have McCabe said 1 in 9 high school seniors stop taking stimulant therapy for ADHD.
For children with ADHD who use their medications appropriately, stimulants can be an effective treatment. It “protects the health of the child,” Kamenga said. “Those teens who are properly diagnosed, treated, and monitored do very well — they have a lower risk of new mental health problems or new substance use disorders.”
McCabe stressed that the solution to the problem of substance abuse among middle and high school teens is not just to limit the use of drugs to children who really need them.
“Instead, we need to look long and hard at which school strategies are more or less effective in reducing stimulant drug abuse,” he said. “Parents can be sure that the schools their children attend have a safe drug store and strict dispensing policies. Ask how prevalent abuse is – that data is available for every school.”
He added that families can also help by talking to their children about how to deal with peers who approach them and want a pill or two to celebrate or have an all-night study session.
“You’d be surprised how many kids don’t know what to say,” McCabe said. “Parents can role-play with their children to give them choices about what they’re going to say so they’re ready when that happens.”
Parents and guardians Controlled medications should always be stored in a safe box, and you shouldn’t be afraid to count pills and stay on top of early refills.
“Finally, if parents suspect any kind of abuse, they should contact a child administrator immediately,” McCabe said. “This child should be examined and evaluated immediately.”