February 13, 2013
Adult Misuse of ADHD Stimulants Leads to Increased Emergency Visits

Washington, D.C.—Pharmacists and other health professionals are being urged to better educate consumers about the dangers of misusing stimulants prescribed to help control attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A new report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) said that emergency department (ED) visits related to use of the drugs more than doubled from 2005 to 2010, from 13,379 to 31,244. Interestingly, the greatest increase was among adults older than 18.

“This report shows that ED visits for nonmedical use have not increased among children and adolescents, but they have increased among adults aged 18 or older,” according to the report’s conclusions. “This suggests a need for increased attention toward efforts to prevent diversion and misuse among adults.”

While the number of ED visits was essentially unchanged for those 18 or younger during the time period, those seeking emergency care rose from 2,131 to 8,148 among those 18 to 25; from 1,754 to 6,094 among those aged 26 to 34; and from 2,519 to 7,957 among those over age 35.

The SAMSHA report also pointed out that the number of ED visits involving nonmedical use of ADHD drugs nearly tripled during this period—from 5,212 in 2005 to 15,585 in 2010. Nonmedical use now makes up half of all ED visits involving ADHD therapies.

“ADHD medications, when properly prescribed and used, can be of enormous benefit to those suffering from ADHD, but like any other medication they can pose serious risks—particularly when they are misused,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “This study indicates that a better job has to be done alerting all segments of society—not just the young—that misuse of these medications is extremely dangerous.”

The majority of the ED visits related to ADHD stimulant medications in 2010 involved drug combinations or interactions—with 45% of those involving other pharmaceuticals. Most common were antianxiety and insomnia medications, followed by narcotic pain relievers. In the remaining cases, illicit drugs were combined with ADHD medications.

“Even when taken as directed, ADHD stimulant medications entail some risk and the data in this report show that the number of visits involving adverse reactions increased between 2005 and 2010, especially for adults aged 18 and older,” according to the report. “As treatment for ADHD among adults becomes more widespread, prescribing physicians (including psychiatrists and other mental health professionals) may carefully consider associated risks among those who have chronic health conditions and/or take other medications that may interact with ADHD stimulant medications. A variety of treatment options, both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical, are available for adults with ADHD.”

The report, entitled “Emergency Department Visits Involving Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Stimulant Medications,” is based on findings from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related morbidity and mortality through reports from a network of hospitals across the nation.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect