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Risk for Misuse of ADHD Stimulant Medications

Armen Hareyan's picture

ADHD Treatment

Study identifies characteristics of those likely to sell or abuse stimulants, suggests potential strategies

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A major concern regarding the use of stimulant medications to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adolescents and young adults has been the risk that they will be misused or diverted to those for whom they have not been prescribed. A new study from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers has found that, while the great majority of young people with ADHD use their medications appropriately, a small percentage are likely to abuse or to sell prescribed stimulants. The report, appearing in the April 2006 Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, also identifies factors that may characterize those most likely to misuse their drugs and suggests potential strategies to reduce the risk.

"In finding that misuse of stimulants prescribed for ADHD typically takes place in the context of abuse of other substances, our results show remarkable convergence with previous surveys of stimulant abuse among college students," says Timothy Wilens, MD, director of Substance Abuse Services in MGH Pediatric Psychopharmacology, who led the study. "By putting a face on these patients, we can start to address the problem with targeted strategies."

The current investigation enrolled participants in a long-term study of young men treated with medications for a variety of behavioral and psychiatric disorders. Ten years after originally joining that study, 98 participants