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Stimulant Medication Misuse Raises Risks for Conduct Problems, Substance Abuse, and ADHD

stimulant medication misuse for adhdInvestigators at Massachusetts General Hospital have determined that stimulant medication misuse increases the risk of conduct problems, substance abuse, and ADHD among college students when compared to peers who did not misuse stimulant medication. The investigators also discovered that the extended versions of this class of drug was misused less often than the immediate release versions. The investigative results of the study can be found in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. According to the report corresponding author Timothy Wilens, M.D., “Our data suggest that college students who misuse prescription stimulant medication are more likely to exhibit clinically relevant psychiatric dysfunction. In addition to higher levels of ADHD, conduct disorder, and alcohol or drug use disorders, the majority of those misusing stimulants met or approached criteria for stimulant-use disorder.”

The fact that stimulant medications are typically used to treat ADHD is ironic because stimulant medication misuse can actually cause this disorder, as well as making the person more likely to engage in other forms of substance abuse and to develop conduct disorders. Dr. Wilens explained that “Someone may report on a survey that they misused stimulants on ‘a handful of occasions’ and have never been diagnosed with a substance-use disorder. While that misuser may deny having a stimulant-use disorder, when systematically queried, it may be found that he or she met or approached the criteria for a full disorder. Some misusers may be pressured to use a friend’s prescription if they believe it will improve academic performance, which is not likely if combined with alcohol or other drugs. We know that untreated ADHD is associated with increased risk of alcohol- and drug-use disorders, so it is not surprising that we found high rates of co-occurring ADHD and of stimulant-use and overall substance-use disorders in those misusing stimulants. It’s possible that pre-existing cognitive deficits may lead some individuals to develop stimulant misuse as they try to self-medicate.”