Most teens who misuse prescription stimulants say they use other people’s medication

By Jill Pease

Using someone else’s medication is the most common form of prescription stimulant misuse among adolescents, with 88 percent of teens who used the drugs non-medically in the past 30 days saying they had obtained the medications from someone else, according to a UF study. The findings appeared in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“In the last 10 years a number of new stimulant medications have been approved for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, treatment, and the expansion of this market, coupled with the increasing rates of ADHD diagnosis, provides greater availability of these drugs,” said lead author Yanning Wang, M.S., who conducted the study as part of her thesis work for a master’s degree in the department of epidemiology at the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine. “This raises concerns about the possible non-medical use or abuse of these medications.”

Wang, now a statistical research coordinator in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine and the department of health outcomes and policy, analyzed data from the National Monitoring of Adolescent Prescription Stimulants Study, which surveyed more than 11,000 youth ages 10 to 18 living in and around 10 U.S. cities.

About 7 percent of all respondents reported they had used a prescription stimulant during the past 30 days. Among those 750 adolescents, 54 percent reported some type of non-medical use, such as taking more pills than prescribed by their doctor, using someone else’s medication, or smoking, snorting or sniffing the medication instead of taking by mouth. Using someone else’s medication was the most frequently reported form of misuse at 88 percent, followed by taking more medication than prescribed at 39 percent.

“It is so important for physicians and parents to counsel youth who have prescription stimulants to never share their medications,” said co-author Linda B. Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of the department of epidemiology, PHHP’s associate dean for research and Wang’s mentor.

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