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    One in 10 adolescents uses study drugs

     

    Feeling the pressure to succeed academically, 10% of teenagers are using someone else’s prescription stimulant medications—“study drugs”—to do better in school. Surprisingly, only 1% of parents are aware that their children are abusing these medicines.

    The findings appear in the most recent C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

    Study drugs are stimulants or amphetamines such as Adderall or Ritalin prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Often teenagers without ADHD use these medications to improve their concentration in school or to stay awake to study for an exam or do homework. However, abuse of stimulants carries significant risks.

    Investigators surveyed 710 parents with children aged 13 to 17 years about their teenagers’ use of study drugs and their concerns about stimulant abuse in their communities. The survey sample was weighted to reflect US Census Bureau population figures.

    Eleven percent of children in the sample had been prescribed ADHD medication. Among parents with children who had not been prescribed ADHD medications, 1 in 100 said their children used study drugs for school; 95% of these parents said their adolescents never misused ADHD medications and 4% admitted they were unaware if their children used stimulants.

    Half the parents said they were “very concerned” about teenaged abuse of study drugs in their communities. White parents were most concerned (54%), followed by black and Hispanic/Latino parents (38% and 37%, respectively). Only 27% of parents said they had talked with their children about misusing study drugs.

    Parents widely expressed support of school policies that address study drug abuse. Seventy-six percent of parents believed that discussion on ADHD medication abuse should be required. Even more parents said that students with ADHD prescriptions should have to store their pills in the school nurse’s office to prevent sharing or selling the drugs to other students.

    The survey results emphasize the need for better communication among students, parents, schools, and public health officials regarding the use and abuse of study drugs in schools.

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