Students turning to ADHD, prescription drugs to study

Students turning to ADHD, prescription drugs to study

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ATLANTA -

A wake-up call for parents of college students heading back to campus. A new report from the U.S. federal government shows thousands of college students are arriving at the emergency rooms across America after taking prescription ADHD drugs.

In many cases, the stimulants weren't even prescribed for them.

A new report from the Public Health Surveillance System - known as the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) shows 23,000 college-aged Americans ended up in the emergency room in 2011 after taking prescription stimulants.

These drugs – like Ritalin, Adderall and Strattera -- are not new, but this study shows they're increasingly ending up in the hands of students getting them from someone else: a friend, family member or another student.

The drugs were being mixed with caffeine and alcohol.

Wendy Dickinson, a psychologist with GROW Counseling in Atlanta, says the reliance on ADHD medications often starts even before college.

"One of the things we're seeing is that students are taking them more and more in high school," Dickinson said. "As they take SATs, as they take some of those college entrance exams, they become dependent on the drugs in order to do better on the exams."

But researchers warn non-medical use of prescription stimulants has been linked to heart and blood vessel problems, and Dickinson says the more you use them, the more you may need them.

"And so if they want to make the grades that they've been making, to be able to study the amount they've been studying, they become addicted to taking that medication in order to be able to perform at that same level," Dickinson said.

ADHD experts are working on developing better criteria for diagnosing attention deficit disorders; the whole idea is to try to prevent people who don't need this medication from getting access to it.
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