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ADHD medication misused and abused by youth

There is much in the media about the opioid epidemic in the United States, but a second prescription drug is being abused, particularly by youth – stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Vyvanse, which are typically prescribed to help control ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

“These medications are often misused by students in high schools and colleges because they believe these medications help them perform better on exams by increasing focus and helping them stay up later to study,” said Clay County Health Department Community Development Specialist Danielle Roethler. “Others misuse these medications at parties to stay awake late. This is especially dangerous because they are usually taking the pills along with alcohol.”

The stimulants are fairly easy for students to get hold of, often getting them from their peers. Some students sell their own prescriptions or get the pills from a sibling’s prescription in their home.

Danielle Roethler

“This is why it is so important for parents of children with valid prescriptions to secure medications and keep track the number of pills their child is taking,” Roethler explained.

Some individuals truly do need these medications, she added; however, it is still possible for someone who needs the medicine, would benefit from the medicine, and who has a valid prescription to misuse the drug.

“Even if you have a valid prescription, it is possible to misuse by taking larger dose than is outlined on the prescription label or if you are taking medication more frequently than the doctor prescribes,” said Roethler. “It is really important to only take medications prescribed to you by a doctor and only take the recommended dosing.” She added that if the medicine is not working effectively, speak with your doctor about how to safely adjust the dosage.

Signs of stimulant misuse include nervousness, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headaches, skin rashes and itching, weight loss and digestive problems.

The abuse of these medicines are dangerous. They can cause a dangerous increase in heart rate, anxiety, and sleep problems. It can also lead to long-term addiction, something youth are at an elevated risk for, because their brains are not yet fully developed, Roethler said.

Parents can do much to alleviate potential drug usage by their children, and much of that begins by opening up the lines of communication, no matter how young your child may be.

”It is important for parents to start having conversations with their children about misusing prescription medication at a young age. During preschool and elementary school, this can simply be talking to kids about not taking other people’s medicine. It is important to set expectations at a young age, long before they are ever confronted with the peer-pressure to buy pills from a friend,” Roethler said.

Laura Bruce from Tri-County Prevention concurred.

“It’s important that parents realize that they are the biggest influence in their teen’s life,” Bruce said. “Kids who say they learn a lot about the risks of drugs at home are significantly less likely to use drugs.”

She added that drugfree.org and generationrx.org are great websites for parents to get more information and talking points.

“Stimulant misuse is one part of the prescription drug misuse issue, youth also misuse other medications such as pain medication, sedatives/anxiety medication, and sleeping medication. Pain medications were reported to be the most misused of any class of medications,” said Excelsior Springs SAFE Director Julia Meese.

By Samantha Kilgore • samantha@leaderpress.com

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