PhotoResearchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health worry young adults are increasingly abusing the stimulant prescription medication, Adderall.

They report that doctors are not writing an increasing number of Adderall presciptions. However, they are seeing a dramatic rise in emergency room (ER) visits by young adults who have misused the drug.

Previously, the researchers said, the belief was that Adderall's misuse was most widespread among children and adolescents. Their findings suggest otherwise.

They looked at trends from 2006 through 2011 and found that it is mainly 18-to-25-year-olds who are abusing Adderall, usually getting it from family and friends and without a physician's prescription.

ADHD treatment

Adderall is a common treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“The growing problem is among young adults,” study co-author Ramin Mojtabai said in a release. “In college, especially, these drugs are used as study-aid medication to help students stay up all night and cram.”

Mojtabai and his colleagues think students who are abusing Adderall believe it will 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,” he said.

Dangerous side effects

Adderall, the brand name for dextroamphetamine-amphetamine, does improve focus, Mojtabai says, but it can also cause sleep disruption and serious cardiovascular side effects, such as high blood pressure and stroke. It has also been linked to depression and mental health issues.

According to, an online addiction treatment resource, people abusing Adderall often experience headaches, dry mouth, nausea, digestive issues, reduced appetite, and anxiety.

It says the drug is often purchased from an illicit source for recreational use and snorted.

Mojtabai says he would like to see drugs like Adderall monitored in the same way that prescription painkillers have started to be monitored in recent years. He says a prescription database would help a physician make sure the patient isn’t receiving multiple medications from multiple physicians, a warning sign of diversion or abuse.

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