Analysis: illegal sharing of 'study drugs' common at the U of M

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Almost 1,600 students at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus may have illegally shared their prescription Adderall with friends last year, according to a recent analysis by  MinnPost.

It’s illegal for friends to give or accept Adderall – one of several amphetamines commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD – because ADHD drugs are highly addictive.

They are classified by the DEA in the same category as cocaine.

The National Institutes of Health strongly cautions people not to "sell, give away, or let anyone else take your medication.”

But nationally, approximately 62 percent of college students with ADHD report giving away their prescription drugs.

And more than half of nonmedical users ages 12 or older report receiving prescription drugs from their friends for free.

There's been a lot of discussion and debate among medical experts about whether drugs for ADHD are overprescribed.

As the use of stimulants for ADHD has skyrocketed over the last several decades, so has the recreational use and abuse of the drugs. Particularly by young adults, who take the drugs to be more productive in school.

CNN reports many young people don’t understand the risks of using ADHD drugs without a prescription.

"Our biggest concern ... is the increase we have observed in this behavior over the past decade," says Sean McCabe, from the University of Michigan Substance Abuse Research Center.

The medications can cause a host of serious side effects, including fast heartbeat, chest pain, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, vision changes and seizures. There have been deaths and suicides related to the drugs.

Nonetheless, stories of students stealing, sharing and snorting ADHD drugs to help their school performance have become commonplace.

Here’s one from a student who has taken ADHD drugs from the New York Times:

“…the immense pressure put on students by parents and educators has made taking speed a socially acceptable thing.... I'm sick of the expectation of a “perfect” kid.”

Detailed data of ADHD drug abuse in Minnesota is limited, but The Minnesota Medical Association estimates the state mirrors the national trend:

–47 percent reported amphetamines, 21 percent reported tranquilizers, and 36 percent reported narcotics other than heroin as “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get.

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