Prescription Stimulant Abuse Begins in High School - New Study Shows

Prevention efforts related to the misuse of stimulants might be more effective if implemented as early as middle school. According to a new study, youth are beginning to misuse prescription stimulants (e.g. Ritalin) in high school (ages 16-19) rather than in university, as many of us may think. This study, conducted at the University of Michigan Medical School, analysed more than 240,000 teens and young adults and found that around one percent of teens will start abusing prescription stimulants in high school. Prescription diet pills were the most popular stimulants abused among women, while Adderall was the most popular among males. The significance of these findings is simple: Education and prevention programmes aimed at preventing or reducing prescription stimulant abuse must start earlier!

The stereotypical university student using stimulants to cram for exams may not be the only concern. The author of the study found that most education and prevention programmes on stimulant misuse were aimed at college students. If prevention initiatives can educate students in middle school, non-medical uses of prescription stimulants can be deterred. One focus of these prevention efforts should be to correct mistaken beliefs. Just because these stimulants can be prescribed does not mean they are safe. This new study shows that the current generation of young people perceive prescription stimulants as safe because they have seen their friends take them under a doctor’s order. However, we now know that stimulants act very different on brains with ADHD compared to non-ADHD brains. These drugs do not help improve grades. And, despite current evidence, teens still widely believe that prescription stimulants can help improve their grades.

By Zach Patterson - Prevention Hub Canada