Adult Stimulant Abuse Could Be the Next Major Epidemic

Adult Stimulant Abuse Could Be the Next Major Epidemic

Adult Stimulant Abuse Could Be the Next Major Epidemic

Adult Stimulant Abuse Could Be the Next Major EpidemicThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently conducted a telephone-based survey and found that 20 percent of parents with high school boys had received an attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis for their son. That is a surprising number of young people needing medication for a behavioral disorder. Prescription insurance industry experts corroborate those findings. They say that boys are the greatest recipients of drugs like Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall used to treat the conditions. And yet, of greater concern perhaps is the rising number of adults who are also taking the medications, according to Huffington Post blogger Lawrence Diller, MD.

More Stimulants Being Manufactured

Another sign that more Americans are dealing with ADD/ADHD comes from the Drug Enforcement Agency, says Dr. Diller, a Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrician at University of California, San Francisco. That agency keeps track of how many prescription drugs are manufactured each year in the U.S. Pharmaceutical companies make requests each year and are assigned yearly production quotas based on consumption the previous year. Just because a drug company makes pills and people buy them does not guarantee that Americans are actually consuming them – but this is perhaps the best measure health officials have for determining how much of any type of medication is being used from year to year.

Those records reveal that demands for all of the key substances used to make ADD/ADHD medications has been on a sharp and constant rise since at least 1996.

  • Methylphenidate production has risen 600 percent (1996-2013). Methylphenidate is the active ingredient in Ritalin and Concerta.
  • Amphetamine demand has gone up 28 fold. This is the key ingredient in Adderall.
  • Vyvanse, an amphetamine, is a relatively new drug, but is on the rise. It was not manufactured in 1996 but companies were granted permission to create 21,000 kgs of its core ingredient in 2013.

Altogether, U.S. drug companies made 193 tons (175,014 kgs) of stimulant medications in 2013 alone. That amounts to more than two dozen 20 mg tablets for every single person in the nation. Given that fact, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that whereas U.S. consumers represent just 4 percent of the world population, the U.S. manufactures 70 percent of the globe’s prescription stimulants (2012).

More Adults Than Children Are Taking Them

How many of those pills are being used to treat children and how many are being used by adults? Again, the prescription insurance experts (Express-Scripts) are able to furnish those numbers. The majority of prescriptions (57.5 percent) written in 2012 were written for adult patients. That means that 42.5 percent were handed out for children.

Adults Are More at Risk

The medications were first introduced in 1927 and have been steadily used to treat children with these conditions since, with very little documented risk for abuse, addiction or other ill effects.  The same cannot be said for adult users. In fact, adults show a greater propensity for abuse, misuse and addiction with these drugs. The stimulant drugs help adults to stay alert at work or school and perform, but then the user turns to sedative medications like Xanax and Ativan to calm down. Some have wondered if the nation’s current opioid epidemic may be, in part, related to initial abuse of stimulants. Hospital records do seem to indicate a correlating rise in stimulant abuse admission alongside increasing opioid admittances.
As a nation we have been worrying about over-diagnosing children with these conditions, but a greater danger may actually lie with adults. Adults are the biggest consumers of prescription stimulants, and they are also the most likely to fall into addictive behavior as a result.

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