ADHD drug misuse is prevalent among college students, according to a recent meta-analysis of 30 studies conducted at the University of South Carolina.
“Misuse of stimulant medication among college students is a significant concern as more students with ADHD are attending college and prescriptions for stimulant medications are on the rise.”
According to Medscape, co-investigator Kari Benson initiated the analysis after working on a project involving social impairment and children with ADHD. She realized stimulant misuse was widespread because so many students would ask her if she could get them ADHD medications. The stimulant drugs have a calming effect and increase focus in those with ADHD/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but no such effects have been shown in those who do not have the disorder.
“People would ask me if I could get them Adderall or Ritalin. I realized that this was a pretty prevalent issue on campus, and I wanted to see what I could do about it.”
The study, which was published in the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, revealed 17 percent of college students misuse ADHD stimulant drugs. The main reason is to improve academic performance. This is based on the myth that ADHD drugs lead to improved learning. However, research shows that stimulant drug misuse may lead to poor academic performance.
Students also abused the medications for weight loss and for the purpose of getting high. Another alarming reason is that the drugs allow users to consume a larger amount alcohol over a longer period of time. This can lead to serious medical consequences, states Benson.
“It makes it possible to drink beyond the normal limit. So instead of passing out drunk, you might end up in the hospital having to get your stomach pumped.”
Other complications of misuse include the potential for overdose and cardiac problems in those with preexisting risk factors. The study found being male, belonging to a fraternity or sorority, and abusing other substances make one more likely to misuse ADHD drugs. Most students feel the stimulants are easy to access, as they are mainly obtained from fellow students.
Since students who are prescribed medication for ADHD are a common source of abused stimulants, researchers warn it is “important for physicians who provide college students with prescriptions for stimulant medications to discuss the possible consequences of misusing or diverting medication, including potential negative health outcomes and legal consequences.”
As Medical News Today points out, ADHD medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall, “are Schedule II controlled substances, placing them in the same legal bracket as substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine.”
The researchers plan to continue their research by examining specific characteristics related to drug misuse with a goal of developing intervention programs.
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