The use and misuse of ADHD medication
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the medicines (for example Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta) doctors prescribe to treat it has been a hot topic in the news for months now. These medications can be extremely helpful for children and adolescents who have received a comprehensive assessment and accurate diagnosis of ADHD. However, misdiagnosis, over-prescribing, and diversion are significant risks.
Although the appropriate, prescribed use of these medicines does not by itself appear to be a primary cause of addiction, most of the medicines are stimulants (for example amphetamine) and they can be misused and one can become dependent on them. One question that comes up is what steps can be taken to minimize the risks for a child or adolescent who has been prescribed these medications by a doctor. If you suspect that ADHD medication misuse is taking place, or it appears an individual has or is developing an addiction to the pills, you should monitor his or her behavior. Here are several things to keep in mind:
- The surest means to curb improper use or diversion of prescribed ADHD medication is for caregivers (parents, grandparents, family friends) to strictly monitor pill consumption and supplies. You can develop a monitoring team comprised of caregivers who know the teen well and a teacher or counselor who can monitor during school hours.
- Remember not to rely solely on information from the adolescent.
- Ask for specific information from the monitoring team about how ADHD symptoms are positively or negatively affecting school performance.
- Caregiver involvement in the life of the adolescent has similar preventive benefits for substance misuse of all kinds by recognizing problems early.
- Check with the individual’s primary care doctor or nurse to ask about new measurement tools that can evaluate an individual’s attention deficit compared to their peers. The tests are brief, easy-to-use and are difficult to fake and perform poorly on purpose.