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Rise in abuse of ADHD drugs

Calls to US poison control centres regarding teenagers who have overdosed on ADHD drugs, rose 76 per cent from 1998 to 2005

Calls to US poison control centres regarding teenagers who have overdosed on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs, rose 76 per cent from 1998 to 2005, according to a recent study.

The authors of the research published in Pediatrics also noted that there was a similar rise in prescriptions dispensed for these medications in the same period and that the increase in abuse 'disproportionately' involved amphetamines.

Data was analysed from the American Association of Poison Control Centers involving cases of abuse and misuse of ADHD prescription medications by 13 to 19 year olds. Findings indicated that nationwide calls between 1998 to 2005 rose from 330 to 581 yearly.

The cases included four deaths; 42 per cent of the adolescents had moderate to severe side-effects; and most required emergency room treatment.

In addition, researchers said IMS health data showed that prescriptions for amphetamine products for adolescents and pre-adolescents during the eight year period rose 133 per cent while those for methylpendiate products were up 52 per cent, resulting in a combined increase of 80 per cent.

Study author Jennifer Setlik said: "Clearly we are seeing a rising problem with the abuse of these medications. The findings suggest that more teens are abusing and misusing stimulant ADHD medications because they have access to [them], not because a higher percentage of those treated have turned to abusing their medication."

The medications involved in the study include Novartis' Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Shire's Adderall and Vyvanse, a mix of several amphetamines. Abuse often involves crushing and snorting the pills to speed up the effects and create a buzz; this carries dangerous side-effects.

ADHD affects between five and 12 per cent of children and four per cent of adults worldwide.

25th August 2009

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