Prescribed medications are often very effective in treating a specific ailment; however, most prescribed medications have side effects that place them at risk for abuse. To understand more about ADHD medication abuse, you may want to learn about ADHD and medication, get insights into the reasons for ADHD medication abuse, and understand the signs of ADHD medication abuse.
About ADHD and Medication
The post, “Treating Attention Deficit Disorder” provides insights into this mental health disorder including various treatment options. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder. It causes a range of challenges including the following:
- Daydreaming frequently
- Forgetting or losing things a lot
- Hyperactivity includes squirming or fidgeting
- Talking too much
- Making careless mistakes or taking unnecessary risks
- Having a hard time resisting temptation
- Having trouble taking turns
- Having difficulty getting along with others
- Problems concentrating
- Inability to finish tasks
While these behaviors are not life-threatening, they are disruptive for the person with ADHD and those he encounters. Teachers, employers, spouses, family members, and friends often discuss the difficulties of living with, working with, or loving someone with ADHD.
Central nervous stimulant (CNS) medications are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD. Stimulants increase dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain to improve concentration while also decreasing fatigue. The two most prescribed stimulants are amphetamines such as Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, and Vyvanse, and methamphetamines such as Metadate, Concerta, and Daytrana, Ritalin, Methylin, Quillivant, and Focalin. Methamphetamines are also CNS stimulants, which reduce appetite and can raise blood pressure.
Stimulants may also be prescribed to treat obesity, asthma, sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, and respiratory problems.
Reasons for ADHD Medication Abuse
Stimulants are often abused by individuals in order to counteract sluggish feelings or for the euphoric effects they may produce. Stimulants are often used to increase concentration and alertness, boost energy to stay awake and get high. Prescribed stimulants may be abused by mixing them with alcohol, crushing, and snorting them.
In the post, “New Survey: Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Stimulants Becoming Normalized Behavior Among College Students, Young Adults,” a study sponsored by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids was presented in 2014 and showed statistics including the following:
- 20 percent of college students report abusing prescription stimulants
- Sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students are significantly more likely to abuse Rx stimulants than college freshmen
- Among young adults between the ages of 18 to 25, 17 percent have abused a prescription stimulant
- Young adults are most likely to abuse the prescribed stimulants Adderall (60 percent), Ritalin (20 percent), and Vyvanse (14 percent)
For many college students, the desire to maintain a social life at college while trying to achieve academically is a balance that is hard to maintain. Abusing these medications allows these students to study, work and stay awake, which gives the students a sense that they are achieving a balance between school and fun. In fact, the study revealed statistics including the following:
- 50 percent of the young adults surveyed report abusing stimulants to study or improve academic performance
- 41 percent say they misuse or abuse them to stay awake
- 24 percent misuse or abuse Rx stimulants to improve work performance at a job
Unfortunately, the research also revealed that nearly two-thirds of college students (64 percent) who reported abusing stimulants indicated that doing so helped them obtain a higher grade, improve work performance or gain a competitive edge. Therefore, the benefits of abusing stimulants that these students were hoping to achieve were realized, which only serves to reinforce the abuse.
In addition to the social acceptance of stimulant abuse, another issue that exacerbates the problem is accessibility. More than half of young adults (56 percent) indicate that it is easy to obtain stimulants that were not prescribed to them and a majority of them (58 percent) say they have friends who abuse prescribed stimulants.
Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Abuse
Adderall and Ritalin are probably the two most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD. The post, “Adderall: Uses, Abuses, and Side Effects,” provides additional information about stimulant abuse.
Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means there is a high risk for addiction or abuse. Amphetamines are extensively abused, as some patients will increase their dosages to levels higher than recommended. Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine may cause side effects including the following:
- Nervousness, restlessness
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
- Changes in sex drive or ability
- Dry mouth
- Stomach pain
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation
- Loss of appetite
Some side effects can be serious and include the following:
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Excessive tiredness
- Slow or difficult speech
- Dizziness or faintness
- Weakness or numbness of an arm or leg
- Motor tics or verbal tics
- Believing things that are not true
- Feeling unusually suspicious of others
- Aggressive or hostile behavior
- Changes in vision or blurred vision
- Blistering or peeling skin
- Swelling of the eyes, face, tongue, or throat
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, call a doctor immediately.