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Number of Teenagers Abusing ADHD Medications Is On the Rise, Study Finds

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According to a study that examined calls to poison control centers nationwide, teen abuse of drugs to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is on the rise across America. In fact, the study results showed that from 1998 to 2005 reports of teenagers overdosing on ADHD drugs increased by 76%.

Researchers working at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center conducted the study. By analyzing 8 years of data from the American Association of Poison Control, the researchers found that in 1998 the number of yearly calls to poison control dealing with ADHD medication overdoses was 330. However, by 2005 the yearly number caused by ADHD medication overdoses skyrocketed to 581.

ADHD medication is primarily prescribed to individuals diagnosed with ADHD, which is characterized by persistent patterns of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity than is typical in a normal individual. Usually, this pattern of behavior becomes apparent in preschool-age children or in the early adolescent years and can improve as age increases. ADHD medication is a stimulant and can increase blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and decrease sleep and appetite—leading to malnutrition. Repeated use of the drugs can lead to hostility and paranoia. Therefore, overdosing on ADHD drugs can be extremely dangerous and can lead to cardiovascular complications, including stroke. In fact, during the study, 4 deaths were attributed to ADHD medication overdoses.

According to the researchers, the results of the study indicate that more teens are abusing the drugs because they have access to them—not because more ADHD sufferers are overdosing on their prescribed medications.