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ADHD drug abuse, a problem commonly associated with the college years, may actually begin much earlier, according to the latest research. One study found that the peak range for individuals beginning to abuse these drugs was between 16 and 19. These findings suggest education must begin much earlier than high school in order to reduce abuse of drugs like Adderall, Ritalin and other prescription stimulants.

Study Results

Researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School analyzed data on more than 240,000 teenagers and young adults from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. In addition to showing a younger peak range than previously thought, the data also revealed that the younger someone is when they begin using these substances, the more likely they are to become addicted.

In addition to drugs prescribed for ADHD, researchers also surveyed use of prescription diet drugs and medications containing methamphetamine. They found young females were more likely to abuse diet drugs, while males were more apt to try Adderall. Non-Hispanic white and Native American teens tended to have the highest use rates.

“We need to have a realistic understanding of when young people are beginning to experiment with stimulants, so we can prevent them from misusing for the first time,” Elizabeth Austic, author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at MU’s Injury Center, stated in a press release. “To prevent someone from using for the first time is often more cost-efficient and effective than trying to intervene once they have done it, whether a few times or for years.”

Prescription stimulants may be abused for a number of reasons, including weight loss and enhancement of physical performance. The drugs are also thought to improve academic performance, which is often why they are taken by students that feel the pressure to get good grades. However, no studies have shown these drugs improve thinking or learning capability and some have actually indicated use of the drugs without a diagnosed disorder like ADHD could impair brain function in some ways.

Prescription stimulants are also addictive, making them a dangerous choice for people at any age. Addiction means you will eventually have to take more of the drug to get the same high, and if you try to stop using, you could experience serious withdrawal symptoms.

At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we help teens overcome addiction to prescription stimulants and discover a healthy, productive life of sobriety. Our treatment programs address both the addiction and the underlying issues that might have led to drug use in the first place. To learn more about the treatment programs offered, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.