ADHD Medication Use Doubled by Young Adults

The use of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) prescription drugs for young adults is on the rise. Commonly prescribed medications, like Adderall and Dexedrine, fall into the class of drugs known as amphetamine stimulants. When taken as prescribed for an accurate diagnosis of ADHD, these psychiatric medications increase dopamine levels and stimulate the front part of the brain, whose functions allow us to reason and control our behavior. ADHD medications can be a wonderful resource for people who really need the medication. However, as a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) exposes, a significantly high number of emergency room visits involving ADHD medication, it is clear that people are misusing and abusing these psychiatric drugs. Before young adults begin taking ADHD medication, parents should consult a physician qualified to diagnose and treat ADHD, most likely either a psychiatrist or pediatrician, and should think deeply to determine if ADHD medication is the right therapeutic choice for their children.

Consider this

Before seeking a medical evaluation for ADHD, people should consider the following questions.

  • Is the diagnosis for ADHD accurate? Just because a young adult is having problems with attention, it does not mean that they have ADHD or should be prescribed medication for ADHD. Other psychological problems can affect attention, like depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders for example. Taking prescription stimulants, like the ones prescribed for ADHD can actually worsen problems with attention when they are not prescribed for an accurate diagnosis. In order to receive a careful diagnosis for ADHD, you may wish to seek a second opinion or pursue a treatment program that offers a comprehensive assessment in determining the need for psychiatric medication. (
  • Are there alternative options for therapeutic treatment besides taking psychiatric medicine? Stimulant medications are not the only way to relieve the symptoms of ADHD. Non-medication therapies like yoga and meditation are powerful alternatives that work by stimulating the front part of the brain. When practiced regularly, yoga and meditation may help in managing ADHD symptoms without the need for prescription stimulants.

Pay attention

If you are a parent of a young adult taking psychiatric prescriptions for ADHD, it can be useful to monitor medication use, especially if your son or daughter has an history of substance abuse. Be aware of the signs that point toward prescription drug misuse.

  • Is the prescription being refilled at a rate that does not correspond to therapeutic recommendations? If your young adult is getting their psychiatric medications refilled more often than the doctor recommends, this may be a sign of drug misuse or abuse. A study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders indicated that 31% of the college students taking stimulants for ADHD who were surveryed had taken larger or more frequent doses of their stimulants than prescribed. The study also found that 26% of students shared their medication with peers (which is a felony in most states). If you find that your young adult is going through their medication more quickly than prescribed, find time to talk about it. Let your young adult know your concerns and listen to their response. Collaborate and decide how to monitor the dosage of their psychiatric prescription.
  • Does your young adult have any adverse reactions to the psychiatric medicine? According to David V. Hamilton, MD, Associate Medical Director, Center for Clinical Neuroscience at Yellowbrick, long term abuse of ADHD medication can cause depression and even psychosis. The stimulants in ADHD medications can cause irreparable damage to the brain when taken unnecessarily and/or at dosages higher than prescribed. If you notice that your young adult is showing signs of depression while taking ADHD medication, like isolating oneself, sleeping irregularly, or showing a lack of interest in usual activities, it may be time to review the course of addiction treatment for young adults with a team of professionals.

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