Trend: Teens Increasingly Abusing ADHD Drugs

New study results have shown an alarming increase in ADHD medication abuse among teens, evidenced by a sharp increase in calls to poison control centers over an 8-year time frame.

Abuse of prescription medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has skyrocketed among teens, according to the results of a recent study. A remarkable increase in teens' calls to poison control centers related to ADHD drugs was found by the researchers to be disproportionate to other types of poison center calls, pointing to a growing issue of abuse of the highly-prescribed medications.

The study, published in Pediatrics (August 24, 2009), revealed that calls to poison centers associated with teenaged ADHD drug abusers increased 76% over an 8-year period, from 1998 through 2005. During that time, the number of ADHD medication prescriptions for adolescents was estimated to have rose 133% for amphetamine drugs and 52% for methylphenidate products, suggesting that the increase in abuse is somewhat in line with the higher prescription numbers. Conversely, methylphenidate as a percentage of total ADHD prescriptions fell 10%, from 66% to 56%, with reports to poison centers related to the drug also decreasing, from 78% to 30%. The researchers reached the overall conclusion that more young adults are abusing the medications because they have more access to them through prescriptions.

For the study, the investigators examined all cases from the American Association of Poison Control Center's National Poison Data System between 1998 and 2005, involving individuals aged 13 to 19 abusing prescription ADHD medications.

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