Study: Teens start misusing ADHD drugs and other stimulants earlier than you might think

Despite stereotypes about college students resorting to black-market Ritalin to help them cram for exams, young people are actually most likely to start misusing prescription stimulant drugs in their high school years, according to new University of Michigan Medical School research.

That’s according to a new analysis of national data from anonymous surveys of more than 240,000 teens and young adults, which will be published in the July issue ofDrug and Alcohol Dependence.

Each year between the ages of 16 and 19, just under 1 percent of teens started using stimulant medications not prescribed to them, or to achieve a certain feeling — including drugs like Ritalin that are usually used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as prescription diet drugs and medicines that contain methamphetamine.

The findings suggest that education programs should start in middle school to keep more young people from starting to use prescription stimulants for non-medical uses. Such use can bring risky side effects, including the chance of becoming dependent on an illegally obtained drug, and even hallucinations, suicide or sudden death.

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