Adderall addiction is not just for type-A teens

We’re talking about the abuse of prescription stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall on the show today. But it is not just teens trying to stay on the ball who are popping the amphetamine-like pills. Here is a story from ABC News about a mother in Minneapolis who stole Adderrall from her child with ADHD.

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Do you or anyone in your family have experience with addiction to prescription stimulants?

–Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • Julie

    I’ve always wondered why we allow kids who are impulsive and disorganized carry their ADHD medications to school. They are the exact worst group to keep a schedule IV drug secure. Would requiring parents to drop off the drug at school themselves help? Should we use liquid forms so students can’t “cheek” the pills (pretend to swallow them) and give them away to their friends?

  • Courtney

    I started taking Adderall in my last year of college though I had never been formally diagnosed with attention deficit.

    I found that it helped stabilize my moods as well as give me a determination to get things done. Getting things done can be a huge boost to one’s mood.

    I’ve continued taking it and am not surprised why anyone would take this stuff, with or without a diagnosis. It doesn’t alter my personality, it just helps me focus.

  • Jeff

    Throughout undergraduate and as a current graduate student, I know many students who have taken these drugs to study for tests or preliminary oral exams. It is not uncommon. I’ve found that many people who take these prescription drugs, often binge drink and tend to use other illicit drugs or prescription drugs for their “high” effect. As an amphetamine many of the people just view it as another drug and don’t think about it. The combination of binge drinking, lack of study skills among American students and the ease of obtaining these drugs promotes their irresponsible use.

  • Julie

    The abuse of these drugs is making it harder for me to get my medication. I’m in my 40’s and every time I go in, I need to convince the doctor I’m not addicted to speed. Luckily, my ADHD is quite, um, *apparent*, so after about eight minutes alone in a small room with me the doctor whips off a prescription and runs for the door.

  • Jim

    We shouldn’t ignore the darker, and very illegal side of this misuse of ADD/ADHD prescription drugs.

    An ADHD kid who is struggling at school anyways, and doesn’t feel much academic hope is approached by a “smart kid” who is competing for class rank and offered cash for her meds.

    This is not an urban legend. I was the father of the ADHD kid in this scenario.

    These drugs do get redirected, sometimes even stolen, and can be sold. A risky proposition as they are a controlled substance.

    I am amazed by the posts and comments that ignore “it’s illegal!”

  • Lawrence A. Lockman, M.D.

    Dr. Sachs is wrong:

    1) NIH staff/researchers are absolutely prohibited from receiving money from drug/device companies.

    2) There is no tolerance to short acting stimulants (methylphenidate or Adderal). The medication is out of the system in a few hours. Each day is new. For children with ADD the beneficial dose, when determined, does not change. Dr. Sachs statement about needing increasing doses is not correct.

    3) Anecdotes are not scientific evidence no matter how many you collect.

    I am Professor Emeritus, Pediatric Clinical Neuroscience, at the University of Minnesota. I never received money from stimulant companies for research or presentations at conferences.

  • Joel

    Wouldn’t it be appropriate to ask what ADHD is, why has it become so prevalent? What is the relationship between our schools’ focus on testing and student performance and the use of these drugs?

    Could it possibly be that our education ‘system’ is causing the epidemic?

  • Stephanie

    How do college students get the medications?

    A caller said that students would go to health services and “all you have to say is “I am really stressed out and having a hard time concentrating. I heard my buddy is taking this (adderalll and Ritalin).”

    You would get a low dosage to start that you could get to be increased in a few weeks.

  • Meg

    Why, when we condemn someone like Lance Armstrong for increasing his physical performance and ability via drugs, is this topic treated with any less condemnation? It seems that if we want to say that physical modification via drugs is damnable in the context of a competition between human persons, that we would also condemn mental modification via drugs in the context of a competition between human persons; if school is not considered a method by which someone’s mind can be developed and mental abilities be assessed, then school is a competition and taking drugs to perform better is cheating in the same way that drugs to modify physical ability is cheating.

  • Robert Van Siclen, PhD, LP

    I’m a child psychologist who has done over a thousand AD/HD evaluations.

    If you see AD/HD not as a disease but as normally distributed in the population, a continuum of distractibility, this controversy becomes manageable. Some people need meds in some environments for some periods as they mature and learn to focus. Then the question becomes: How do you recognize the children and adults who need the help, some of which may be chemical? How do you help those people to recognize what attending feels like, how to choose those environments and professions that best suit their attention styles? How do you teach people to both change their environment (e.g., sit further up in lecture classes, don’t bring a laptop), and to change themselves so that they can focus for the time periods required.

  • kristen

    I do not see the difference between Adderal use by students and doping by athletes. Thoughts?

    Using ADHD drugs for artificial concentration is cheating.

    Perhaps universities and testing agencies should put a screening for stimulants into place. If a student has a legitimate prescription they will have proof and can present it.

    Do the students who currently use these drugs have any concern about how they will perform in their field after graduation if they discontinue the use of these drugs?

  • Amanda

    Thank you for sharing the effects of stimulants on the brain. Can you please speak to the effects on heart health?

  • Ben

    If we as a society frown on baseball players taking performance-enhancing sterioids, why wouldn’t we be the same way for “performance-enhancing” use of ADHD drugs (for kids that don’t actually have ADHD)?

  • Derek

    I’ve taken ADHD medication once, before a music performance in college. My performance anxiety is exceptionally high, and by taking the drug, I had the best performance I’ve had in my life: my teachers were actually astonished. It may have only been a placebo effect, but should I need to perform as a soloist again, I would take it again. I actually enjoyed a performance for the first time in my life, and was able to play to an audience like I can in the practice room or for my teacher.

  • Paula A

    I am a therapist who does ADHD assessments. I have seen this issue on both sides. Their are those who do not get help because of the stigma. I have had a few college students over the years after Freshman year and think they have ADHD. Their parent’s wouldn’t allow them to be assessed in high school and they are failing. I believe that the drug companies give out an assessment test/check sheet for free to doctors. Anybody know the symptoms could fake this. I have used the TOVA test a computerized test that tracks attention for years and this helps sort out is this an attention disorder or someone wanting a stimulant for other reasons. Recently I had a college student who was so obviously ADHD with hyperactivity and her school medical center stopped despising stimulants. I wonder if more college medical centers are moving towards this? I think that doctors could work more cooperatively with mental health professionals. They only have 10 minutes with a patient. The best treatmnet is medication and counseling.

  • Rosemary

    I’m an adult woman diagnosed with ADD about 10 years ago. The stimulant ADD meds work best for me but I’m not able to take them because they dramatically increase my blood pressure. The problem here seems to be medical professionals who are prescribing ADD meds without proper diagnosis. My personal experience is that a family practice doctor is not as proficient as a psychiatrist to diagnose and manage ADD meds for children and adults.

  • Laura

    I have been listening off and on to the show as I go about my morning tasks. What I have noticed in many comments is a subtext of judgement or blame toward the parents of ADD/ADHD children who allow use of medication as a part of their children’s therapy. It is not an easy decision to opt in for medication — it is heart wrenching and guilt-filled, usually after many failed attempts to help one’s child. It is not a silver bullet — these children largely still struggle for academic success and social acceptance while on medication. The upside is that they are able to attend school and have a somewhat “normal” life despite their disability.

  • Chris Baumhover

    The increasingly competetive nature of college entrance and the job market is at least partially responsible for drug abuse in our kids just to compete. Students who do not enhance their academic achievement via Adderall cannot compete.

  • Dan, a child neuroscientist who called in

    “We need to be careful when terms like “zombie pills” are being talked about. There are many parents out there desperate for answers. Parents are looking for a solution. There are cases, to be sure, where the medicine is overprescribed. There are children out there who have real needs and have yet to be given a diagnosis. We have no systems in place for parents who need a genuine intervention.”

    Transcribed by Stephanie Curtis

  • Nancy

    ADHD is a brain based condition. In my 25 years of experience as a special education teacher I’ve never seen students improve with therapies such as brain training or “natural” remedies. Used properly Aderall, Ritalin and other drugs can turn a failing student into a successful student. Because of the misinformation that is spread by shows like yours and some of the guests you’ve had some parents are very prejudiced against medication and wait until there child has had many years of failure before trying medication.

  • Greg

    ADHD is 50% behavioral meaning medication is only half of the solution. The US consumes 8x as much adderal as the rest of the world combined. The rate of prescription written is proportional to the funding by advocacy groups funded by drug companies. Moral of the story their is not an easy fix. By maintaining an appropriate stress level, diet and sleep patterns one can address most of their issues and if someone’s making money (drug companies) you need to look out for yourself.

  • Chris, from UMN

    Would like to point out that college students can get prescriptions without parents knowing – the are over the age of 18.

  • Marybeth

    I was diagnosed with ADD was prescribed ritalin. Here’s my experience:

    1. My doctor could not prescribe ritalin — I had to get tested and then get an official diagnosis from a psychiatrist who then prescribed the ritalin , so I am surprised to hear that regular doctors are able to prescribe these medications.

    2. I wonder if these medications are really helpful in the long-run in academic settings. The gains in short term memory are temporary and what one needs is the ability to learn so that the knowledge becomes a part of one’s long-term memory. For me, I found that “focus” was not enough — I needed organizational skills and to develop good habits (so I wouldn’t have to think! — because if I have to think about something I have a tendency to get distracted!). I found the household organization website — — to be of much more benefit than the ritalin I was prescribed. This website teaches how to break tasks up into smaller steps, time management, decluttering (because it is hard to focus in a cluttered space) and teaches useful habits. I find this flylady.ncom much more useful than medication.

    3. I think that individuals with ADD are often creative, out-of-the box thinkers, and that if encouraged, can be wonderful leaders and entrepreneurs. Schools could do much better to teach study, organizational (project and time management skills) problem-solving, and presentation skills (like public speaking) to such creative people. Instead of emphasizing test scores as the measure of student learning, schools should have measures that are project-based. The Profile of Learning Standards that Minnesota proposed in the 1990s would be much better for all students.

  • Jody

    About half way through the program there was a male caller that indicated he had success using non-pharmacologic interventions with kids with ADD. If someone could tell me the name of that practitioner (and the organization they are with), I would appreciate it.

  • Stephanie

    Jody – I’m looking that up for you….

  • Alex

    I find the news report pretty sensational. The truth is obtaining an Adderall prescription now is not as easy as feeding lines to a family physician. I was diagnosed with ADD in 4th grade but my parents decided against medication. When I was in college I made the choice to see if medication would help me manage my disorder. I tried to feed lines to a doctor about medication and even with a positive diagnosis, I was not prescribed drugs. It was only a few years after I graduated that saw a psychologist (for a different reason) that I was referred to a psychiatrist who then referred me to a specialist who does tests for ADHD. After doing a battery of computer and other tests (the computer tests by the way could NOT be fooled by simply taking longer on certain tasks) was I given clearance to go to my family physician to discuss a medicinal intervention. Even then I was put on non-amphetamine drugs for months before a switch was made to Adderall.

    I completely agree with the deliberate process that was taken when prescribing a schedule II controlled substance.

  • Betsy

    In case anyone missed it, the name of the guest’s second book is “Boys Adrift.”

    But seriously, it’s kind of ironic that someone so critical of drug-company kickbacks couldn’t seem to resist his own repeated self-promotion on the show. . .