PhotoThe abuse of prescription drugs has continued to plague consumers in the U.S. Deaths due to overdose continue to rise and state agencies are still trying to find the best solutions.

Now, a new study has put into focus how prescription drugs are being abused by adolescents. Researchers found that when it came to drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, and other drugs used to treat ADHD, 88% of people who used them in the past 30 days had gotten them from someone else.

Prescription abuse

Medication for ADHD is usually prescribed for people who have trouble staying focused on a task or exhibit behavioral problems. Unfortunately, the increased ability to focus has become very desirable for students from middle school all the way through college; many believe it gives them an edge when studying for a test or getting a paper done.

And with ADHD diagnoses becoming more common, it has become very easy for young people to get a hold of these medications. “In the last 10 years a number of new stimulant medications have been approved for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, treatment, and the expansion of this market, coupled with the increasing rates of ADHD diagnosis, provides greater availability of these drugs,” said Yanning Wang, lead author of the study.

Wang believes that this increased availability can have very troubling implications. If taken in excess or by someone without a prescription, there are a variety of health issues that can arise. They include increased blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, decreased appetite, and a decreased need to sleep. If the dosage is too high, cardiovascular problems can also emerge.

Non-medical uses

For the purposes of the study, Wang and other researchers at the University of Florida examined survey data taken from 11,000 people ranging in age from 10 to 18 in 10 U.S. cities between 2008 and 2011. They found that 7% of those surveyed, or around 750 participants, had used a prescription drug in the past 30 days.

Of those 750 participants, 54% admitted that they had taken the medication for non-medical purposes; this included taking more than the recommended dosage, using another person’s medication, or ingesting it by smoking, snorting, or sniffing it instead of taking it orally. Eighty-eight percent of respondents admitted to taking someone else’s medication and 39% said they took more than the recommended dosage.

Marker for risky behavior

Using medication that has not been prescribed to you is extremely dangerous. Making sure young people know this is of the utmost importance. “It is so important for physicians and parents to counsel youth who have prescription stimulants to never share their medications,” said Linda B. Cottier, co-author of the study.

Abusing prescriptions medications also serves as a marker for other risky behavior, according to the study. The researchers point out that teenagers who do so are more likely to have conduct problems at home and school and are more likely to abuse other substances, like tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.

The full study has been published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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