Statistics, Side Effects of Prescription Stimulant Abuse

Statistics, Side Effects of Prescription Stimulant Abuse

Statistics, Side Effects of Prescription Stimulant Abuse

Statistics, Side Effects of Prescription Stimulant AbuseThe U.S. may only make up about 4 percent of the total global population, but this country currently produces more than 85 percent of the world’s prescription amphetamines and their alternatives. It comes as no surprise that some of these drugs are abused. Some users, both teens and adults, abuse their prescription Adderall or Ritalin by taking more than directed, or by taking their medicine in an unapproved way. Others may abuse these drugs by buying them off the street, or accepting them from a well-meaning friend or relative. While taking these drugs may seem relatively harmless (after all, they’re legally prescribed medicine, right?), prescription drug abuse of amphetamines (like Adderall and Ritalin) can come with serious and dangerous consequences.

What Are They?

Stimulant narcotics commonly used to treat ADHD work in the same way. They all increase levels of dopamine in the brain. Some of these medications may contain only one chemical component, while others, such as Adderall, are made up of two or more components.


Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant containing the compound methylphenidate. It first appeared on the market in the 1950s to treat depression and narcolepsy and also to offset sedative effects of other medications. While it’s now primarily used to treat ADHD in children and adults, Ritalin, and a similar brand called Concerta, is sometimes used to treat other conditions, including narcolepsy and depression in individuals who respond poorly to common antidepressants.


Adderall is a very popular medication used to treat ADHD. First appearing on the market 20 years ago, it is currently the most-prescribed stimulant in the U.S. Made up of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, it is considered to be more effective than Ritalin and is favored by practitioners and patients alike for the treatment of ADHD. This drug is also the most commonly abused prescription stimulant.

Besides Adderall and Ritalin, common prescribed stimulants include Daytrana, Dexedrine, Focalin, Metadate and Strattera.

Academic Doping

On college and high school campuses across the country there is the persistent view that Adderall or Ritalin can help students focus and cram before an exam. In fact, according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) survey, nearly 7 percent of graduating high school seniors admitted to using Adderall without a prescription. The immense academic and social pressure facing these teens and young adults, as well as the belief that these drugs are harmless, are probably the main drivers of this trend. While it’s true that prescription stimulants will keep you awake, they are by no means miracle pills that offer a shortcut to higher grades. In fact, some users find that these drugs reduce their ability to focus.

The unfortunate result for many students abusing these drugs is a high risk for addiction. Physical dependence on prescription stimulants is common, and can happen fairly quickly, often without the user realizing it. A pattern can very easily develop, and before long, physical addiction will prevent the student from functioning properly without a regular dose of Adderall. At this point, it is best to seek help in quitting.

Primary Effects

The ingredients of prescription stimulants are very similar, and the effects of stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall are generally the same. Some of the primary effects include:

–        Euphoric feelings

–        Increased energy

–        Restlessness or nervousness

–        Inability to sleep

Side Effects

Some of these side effects can be quite severe and are most likely to occur when the drugs are abused. These side effects include:

–        Decreased appetite

–        Slowed speech

–        Chronic insomnia

–        Anxiety or paranoia

–        Headache

–        Nervous “tics”

–        Numbness in limbs

–        Blurred or reduced vision

–        Abrupt change in personality

–        Hallucinations

–        Stroke

–        Seizures

–        Heart attack

–        Increased risk of suicide (especially for those taking Strattera)


Adderall and Ritalin aren’t just abused by high-achievers during exam time. Some teens may begin using these drugs just for their euphoric, speed-like effects. And because they allow the user to stay awake, prescription stimulants also make an appearance in the rave scene. Other teens or young adults may also begin using these stimulants as a cheaper, and perceived safer, alternative to cocaine. Pills abused this way are crushed and snorted. Snorting amphetamines, however, is very dangerous as it releases large amounts of the drug into the body’s system all at once, leading to a greater likelihood of overdose and addiction. These narcotic drugs were never meant to be inhaled, and are only considered moderately safe for individuals taking a prescribed dose under the careful watch of their doctor.

If you suspect a friend or family member is struggling with an Adderall or Ritalin addiction, or if you’re struggling with addiction yourself, consider contacting groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, your school’s counseling program, or a similar organization for support. In some cases, intensive rehab may be necessary.

Like other prescriptions, stimulant drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall are widespread in US households, and their popular use leads to the general view that they are safe or even harmless. While the rate of stimulant abuse seems to have fallen in recent years, its prevalence continues to be a problem. By educating our families, there’s still a good chance that Adderall and Ritalin abuse rates will continue to decline.

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