Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health have published a study titled "Prescriptions, Nonmedical Use, and Emergency Department Visits Involving Prescription Stimulants" in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggesting that youths are taking the drug Adderall legitimately prescribed to someone else – resulting in prescription misuse, increased emergency room visits and elevated long-term risks.
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The researchers concentrated on studies and events occurring between 2006 to 2011 and found that youths aged 18 to 25 are abusing Adderall, taking it without prescription after it has been prescribed to family and friends.
"The growing problem is among young adults," says study co-author Ramin Mojtabai, MD, MPH, PhD, a professor of mental health at the Bloomberg School. "In college, especially, these drugs are used as study-aid medication to help students stay up all night and cram.
“Our sense is that a sizeable proportion of those who use them believe these medications make them smarter and more capable of studying. 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," Mojtabai added.
Lian-Yu Chen, first author of the study and a 2014 PhD graduate from the Bloomberg School noted that the rate of legitimate prescriptions for Adderall has dropped but the medical problems associated with its abuse are on the increase, showing youths are accessing the drug from someone else – something physicians should note and prevent.
The drug dextroamphetamine-amphetamine is sold under the brand name Adderall and prescribed to patients with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. It is capable of increasing focus, but also able to disrupt sleep and cause cardiovascular side effects such as stroke and high blood pressure.
The drug also increases the risk for mental health problems, including depression, bipolar disorder and unusual behaviors including aggressive or hostile behavior – prompting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put a black box warning on it in 2006.
The researchers relied on three different data sourced from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a population survey of substance use; the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a survey of emergency department visits; and the National Disease and Therapeutic Index, a survey of office-based practices including prescribing.
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The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and a National Research Service Award.