While we watch a worrying opioid epidemic continue to grow all across the country, experts fear another growing and looming threat, particularly seen in America’s college students. More and more, clinicians are seeing high school and college students in the throes of ADHD prescription addiction, and worry about potential health consequences as a result of the abuse and misuse of prescription stimulants.
ADHD Prescription Addiction: Study Drugs That Aren’t So Smart
Prescription medicines for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are relatively common in children and adolescents who have the disorder. But research suggests a growing number of young adults also being prescribed stimulants like Ritalin (from the methylphenidate drug class) and Adderall (from the dextroamphetamine drug class). Research suggests young adults and college students who have not been diagnosed with ADHD are ‘borrowing’ those drugs from their friends to “perform better” in school and life. Students find taking the stimulants helps them to stay awake longer, study better, and even lose weight, as side effects of the drugs can also include appetite suppression.
This is serious, as there are significant potential health (and judicial as well) consequences for those who misuse and abuse prescription stimulants. When used as directed, these ADHD prescription medicines do not typically pose serious health risks. When used without a prescription to stay awake and focus better, side effects include dizziness, nervousness, emotional instability, and mood changes and even psychosis, seizures, and hypertension.
Continued after video:
ADHD Prescription Addiction: Gateway to Additional Abuse
While ADHD prescription medicines certainly make a difference in the lives of those who have ADHD, a growing trend on college campuses is to seek out ADHD diagnoses to get the prescription stimulants. In turn, college students are abusing them under the belief that the medicines will help them do better in school, and/or giving and selling them to friends for the same purpose.
And thus begins dependency. College students often believe that ADHD prescription drugs are just a step up from extra caffeine and not “that dangerous.” In reality, though, prescription stimulants fall in the same drug classification as DEA Schedule II medications because of their high potential for abuse that creates physiological and psychological dependence. This category is also the same classification in which you find codeine, oxycontin, and morphine.
Because of this, ADHD prescription addiction is just as possible as an opioid addiction in college students, and can even lend itself to the use of other drugs to combat side effects. Yes, stimulants keep you awake to study, but college students may then turn to other drugs like Valium or Xanax to help them ‘unwind’ and sleep some. The misuse and abuse make the probability of addiction to other drugs even higher.
Why Are College Students At Risk?
The workload of a college student is most likely far greater than one he or she ever encountered in high school. The thought of any medicine helping one focus more and stay awake longer is attractive to most students who are just looking to do their best. Many college students ‘self-diagnose,’ and initially believe they are merely addressing an issue that they didn’t recognize before. Others ‘borrow’ from friends with valid ADHD prescriptions and consider their ability to stay awake longer and study more is worth the misuse, and will only be temporary.
But stimulant misuse leads to addiction, and college students find themselves needing more to keep themselves going at the paces they’ve created. A recent study found that the abuse of prescription stimulants in college students is nearly 20%, and has risen significantly in the last decade and a half. Experts believe that it will only continue to grow, as a focus on opioid addiction seems to overshadow the real and valid concerns about ADHD prescription addiction and efforts to reduce them. This is sadly ironic, as more research continues to suggest that opioid addiction is on the rise in young adults who use ADHD stimulants.
Ocean Hills Recovery Can Help
If the ADHD prescription medicine you thought would help make life easier has now become an addiction that has made things more complicated, you’re not alone. At Ocean Hills Recovery, we see young adults and college students who have ADHD prescription addictions and are looking to break those chains. We can help you break the cycle of dependency on these drugs and offer you treatment and practical guidance to get you back on the road to the life you are ready to live. The one you were meant to live.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.