ADHD medication abuse leads to extensive rise in emergency room visits


Posted Mon, Feb 25, 2013


DENVER — Emergency rooms around the country have seen a rise in admittance from individuals abusing prescription medication intended for persons suffering from Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Research done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reveals that since 2005, trips to the emergency departments due to people mistreating these drugs has doubled. The study also disclosed that half of the visits are from people who have not been prescribed the medication. Fifty percent of the use of the drug has been for personal and recreational use.

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said, “ADHD medications, when properly prescribed and used, can be of enormous benefit to those suffering from ADHD, but like any other medication they can pose serious risks – particularly when they are misused.”
The age range that has seen the highest spike is 18 to 25 year olds.

“We’re seeing it misused mostly on college campuses, but somewhat in high schools as well. There is a misperception that it will help individuals do better in school, but there is no research to prove this is true,” said Laurie Lovedale, the prescription drug abuse prevention coordinator for Peer Assistance Services.

The stimulants that are acquired to treat ADHD are popular in colleges. Along with social pressure regarding both in school performance and out of school revelries, many turn to prescribed stimulants.

“I’m not too surprised,” said Dr. Karen Crawford, a psychology professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “Those drugs are being prescribed so much today.”

These drugs are among the most abused prescribed medicines in the United States where there are a total of 16 million Americans using prescription drugs for reasons other than their intended purposes. Seven million of the users were reported in just the last seven months.

“They just work as speed in kids without ADHD, they say they can study longer and focus better and get better grades with less effort, and they can just use them to get high at parties,” Crawford said.

Two of the main stimulants that are being used as mental jumper cables or party favors are Ritalin and Adderall. Like any prescription drugs it has many side effects, which can be very dangerous especially to those who have never been medically advised to take the drug before.

Side effects identified by the FDA include:
*dangerously high blood pressure
*severe headache
*buzzing in ears
*chest pain
*shortness of breath
*blurred vision
*uneven heartbeats
Eventually extended use can even lead to serious dependence.

“These medications are schedule two substances so they are addictive,” Lovedale said.

The drugs are prescribed for a reason, when they are taken the effects are more overwhelming than users perceive. The inclination to take the drugs is a very strong force and once users are pulled in the path to recovery is not an easy one to walk.

“They would need treatment just like anyone who’s addicted to heroine, cocaine or alcohol,” Lovedale said.

Unaware of these consequences, after consumption, users end up spending a decent amount of time getting treated at the emergency room and not every spree to the hospital ends in a trip out. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released data shows that over 60 percent of overdose deaths come from perception drugs.

“You can do damage to your developing brain and these medications are changing the way your brain communicates,” Lovedale said. “Sometimes there’s changes that can’t be reversed.”

SAMSHA offers a free download of the guide for Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorder at their website.

Peer Assistance Services also provides information regarding prescription drug abuse that can be found at their website-



About J.R. Johnson

J.R. is a student at the Metro State University of Denver pursuing his degree in journalism and communications.

View all posts by J.R. Johnson

3 Responses to “ADHD medication abuse leads to extensive rise in emergency room visits”

  1. Davy Says:

    Interesting story. Good job listing the side effects, and good statistics used.


  2. AJA Says:

    I like the facts, the FDA side effects insert was an interesting and neat piece


  3. Jen Sasser Says:

    Well written and full of information. NAILED IT!!!


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