Stimulant Drug Use Growing Concern

stimulant pills

Bismarck, North Dakota NBC affiliate KFYR-TV news carried a story in late February on the growing trend of stimulant drug abuse among young people throughout the United States. The drugs which were the primary focus of the report were Ritalin and Adderall, the two most commonly prescribed medications for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among children and young adults in this country. According to statistics provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 8 percent of American high school seniors admitted to abusing Adderall and other stimulant drugs in 2012, a figure which is up by 2 percent over the numbers from 2009. The ADHD stimulants are widespread among high school and college students of the current generation, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that there are 55 million prescriptions written for such drugs on a regular basis.

The fact that Ritalin and Adderall are prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder presents something of a contradiction, given that they are both powerful stimulants. Ritalin is to a large degree identical to cocaine in its chemical structure and mechanics of effect on the brain, while Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. They may be medications, but both of them are listed in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, a group which includes such infamous drugs as cocaine and opium. ADHD stimulants have a high potential for abuse and dependence, particularly when students start taking them in amounts which exceed the recommended dosage.

A common scenario is that a young person with a prescription for one of the drugs will start taking additional pills in order to get an extra boost during studying, such as to stay up late to write a paper or to perform better on a test. In other cases, a teen with a prescription will start sharing the pills with friends for the same purpose, as a study aid and academic performance enhancer. It is not long, however, before the young person who starts using stimulants non-medically will begin abusing the drugs. A common route for abuse is to crush the pills in order to snort the powder just as if it were cocaine, and often with the same effects. In this form, Adderall and Ritalin easily transition from being medicine into party drugs, allowing young people to stay up all night with their friends.

Worse, many will mix the drugs with alcohol, motivated by the fact that the stimulant effects will work to offset the drowsiness that sets in with drinking so that users can drink far more and get outrageously drunk before passing out.

The Trend May Begin to Decrease


Increasing rates of ADHD stimulant abuse are rightfully prompting many medical professionals to conduct a more exhaustive examination before writing a new prescription for Adderall or Ritalin. Until recently, it has been relatively easy for a student to obtain a prescription by visiting a doctor with complaints of fake symptoms. There is no blood test or MRI which can objectively diagnose ADHD, and the diagnosis is notoriously subjective and dependent on the opinion of the prescribing doctor.

Physicians are taking note of the consequences of the shocking increase in rates of prescription for ADHD drugs and are now appearing less eager to place a child or adolescent on such a powerful drug at such a young age. In light of this information, parents should also be wary of agreeing to give their children Adderall or Ritalin, as well as exploring options for gradually taking them off the drugs if they are already on a prescription. It can be dangerous to suddenly quit taking stimulants, but with medical supervision, it is possible to safely scale use down to zero.

And if someone has an addiction to these drugs, they should get more information about Narconon and start on the path to recovery today.



Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.