Sharp Increase in Young Adults’ Emergency Room Visits Related to Stimulant Use

young_adult_emergency_room_increasedFederal health officials said that the number of young adults who end up in the emergency room after taking Adderall, Ritalin or similar stimulants has quadrupled in recent years. These medicines are widely prescribed for conditions like attention deficit disorder and they are among the medications most frequently abused.

National data indicates that among 18- to 34-year-olds emergency room visits related to stimulants increased from 5,600 in 2005 to 23,000 in 2011, The New York Times reports. Peter J. Delany, who directs the office that oversees statistics for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services, said the rise was particularly pronounced among 18- to 25-year-olds. He characterized the increase as part of a broader pattern of negative health effects from prescription drug abuse across American society, according to the Times.

Dr. Delany said it is important to consider how people who misused prescription drugs obtained them. In 2011, more than half  of the users got drugs free from a friend or a relative, while 17 percent bought them from a friend or a relative, according to the Times.

The report focused on emergency room visits that resulted from abuse or misuse of the stimulants; taking larger-than-prescribed doses, for example, or taking the drugs in combination with alcohol. When a stimulant is combined with alcohol, the stimulant can hide the effects of being drunk, thereby increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related injuries. About a third of 18- to 34-year-olds’ emergency room visits related to stimulants also involve alcohol, the report said. Methamphetamine and other illegal stimulants, though part of the abuse problem, were not included in the report, the Times noted.

The findings were published in SAMHSA’s DAWN Report (Drug Abuse Warning Network).


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