The University of Michigan Mitt Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that only one percent of parents of teens between the age of 13 to 17 believe their children are using prescription stimulants or amphetamines.
However, national data from Monitoring the Future revealed that an overwhelming 10% of high school sophomores and 12% of high school seniors take these attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs without a prescription from their doctor.
It is important that children who are mentally healthy avoid taking attention-boosting drugs. The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) announced in a public statement that it is wrong for doctors to prescribe ADHD drugs for mentally healthy kids who misuse them as a means of achieving better grades at school.
A study carried out by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reported that the number of emergency department visits involving ADHD medications increased from 13,379 in 2005 to 31,244 in 2010 (a rise of more than 100%).
Study drugs include all medications that are prescribed to treat ADHD, such as Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, and Vyvanse.
Students take ADHD medications without a prescription (either by taking someone else's medication or buying it illegally) to improve cognitive performance and achieve better results in their exams.
Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health said that it is imperative that people understand that study drugs have not been proven to improve students' grades and can be very dangerous to their health if abused.
Davis said: "Taking these medications when they are not prescribed for you can lead to acute exhaustion, abnormal heart rhythms and even confusion and psychosis if the teens get addicted and go into withdrawal."
"What we found in this poll is a clear mismatch between what parents believe and what their kids are reporting. But even though parents may not be recognizing these behaviors in their own kids, this poll also showed that one-half of the parents say they are very concerned about this abuse in their communities."
The most concerned parents were white (54% were "very concerned") followed by black and Hispanic parents.
Although many parents expressed concern, only 27% of them had talked to their children about improper using prescription drugs such as Adderall.
Davis added: "If we are going to make a dent in this problem, and truly reduce the abuse of these drugs, we need parents, educators, health care professionals and all who interact with teens to be more proactive about discussing the issue."
Most parents support efforts to prevent teens abusing ADHD drugsOne third of parents supported school policies that focused on stopping the abuse of study drugs in school. 76% of parents said that schools should educate children about the dangers associated with abusing study drugs.
79% said they would support a policy that made students with a prescription for ADHD medications keep their medicines somewhere secure where other students can't have access to them.
One in ten teens using "study drugs," but parents aren't paying attention
Davis concluded: "We know teens may be sharing drugs or spreading the word that these medications can give their grades a boost. But the bottom line is that these prescription medications are drugs, and teens who use them without a prescription are taking a serious risk with their health."
The long term health effects of taking ADHD drugs could result in health risks that aren't yet fully understood. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (June 2009 issue) revealed that stimulant drugs for ADHD treatment may increase the risk of sudden death in healthy children.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist