ADHD

Updated 12 June 2017

Students with ADHD more likely to misuse stimulant drugs

A study suggests that college students who misuse prescription stimulant medications are more likely to exhibit clinically relevant psychiatric dysfunction.

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College students who misuse stimulant drugs are more likely to have ADHD or other psychiatric problems, a new study shows.

Stimulants for non-medical use

The study also found that immediate-release stimulants are more likely to be misused than extended-release versions of the drugs.

A previous study found that nearly two-thirds of college students had been offered stimulants for non-medical use, and 31 percent had used them over a four-year period.

The new Massachusetts General Hospital study included 300 undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 28 at Boston-area campuses. One-third misused stimulant drugs.

Read: SA has one of the highest prescription rates for ADHD medication

Misusers were more likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD or to have related symptoms as children, such as being easily distracted and having trouble paying attention. As adults, they were more likely to have trouble following instructions and to dislike tasks requiring focus.

Misusers also were more apt to meet criteria for substance-use disorder – including use of drugs and alcohol together. Two-thirds met or approached criteria for stimulant-use disorder. They got stimulants from friends or acquaintances, were more likely to say they used any drugs to "get high" and had a lower overall sense of well-being.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Using friends' prescriptions

"Our data suggest that college students who misuse prescription stimulant medications are more likely to exhibit clinically relevant psychiatric dysfunction," corresponding author Dr Timothy Wilens said in a hospital news release.

Read: Do ADHD meds increase substance abuse risk?

He said not everyone uses these drugs simply to "get high".

"Some misusers may be pressured to use a friend's prescription if they believe it will improve academic performance, which is not likely if combined with alcohol or other drugs," said Wilens, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry and co-director of the hospital's Centre for Addiction Medicine.

"We know that untreated ADHD is associated with increased risk of alcohol- and drug-use disorders, so it is not surprising that we found high rates of co-occurring ADHD and of stimulant-use and overall substance-use disorders in those misusing stimulants," he said.

Read more:

What is ADHD?

Causes of ADHD

Treating ADHD

 

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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation (www.gb4adhd.co.za) She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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