By Karen Weintraub
Like any other medication, drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can be abused.
A story in last Sunday’s New York Times showed the potentially tragic consequences of such abuse, and revealed some of the systemic factors that enabled it.
There is no blood test to diagnose ADHD – no biological marker that says “yes” you have the condition or “no” you don’t. Accurate diagnosis relies on the sophistication and experience of the doctor and the honesty of the patient.
The New York Times piece suggested that one or both of these factors broke down in the case of Richard Fee, a college graduate who committed suicide at age 24, two weeks after his last prescription for the stimulant Adderall expired.
Drugs like Adderall are far more available now than they used to be, because awareness of ADHD and prescriptions have increased markedly over the last decade, particularly among adults.
Most people tend to see ADHD as a condition of childhood. Research suggests that 5-10 percent of children meet the criteria for ADHD and are impaired by it, while roughly 4 percent of adults do.
Although there has long been discussion about whether ADHD medications are overused in children, this story raised concerns about the drugs in early adulthood, when drug abuse is most common. “We’ve got a lot more drugs out there in that age population,” said Dr. Glen Elliott, chief psychiatrist and medical director at the Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto. “The need to be more alert to possible diversion and misuse and abuse in this population has certainly increased.” Continue reading
WBUR’s Deborah Becker reports:
A new study out of Tufts University suggests that a mother’s use of marijuana — even long before she has children — could lead to drug use in her kids.
The study found that when adolescent female rats were exposed to the active ingredient in marijuana, their offspring were more likely to abuse drugs. One of the study’s authors, Elizabeth Byrnes, Associate Professor at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, says the study proves that some drugs have long-term repercussions:
“You really can’t assume that exposure to drugs prior to pregnancy doesn’t have long-term effects on the next generation,” she said. “These things seem to cause some persistent effects.”
But Byrnes says it’s too early to establish a connection between adolescent drug use and possible effects on future children.
Not that a mere anecdote disproves research, but my late mother liked pot so much she grew it in our backyard, and I could never stand the stuff myself. (And haven’t been drawn to opioids like the rat offspring, either.) I heaped adolescent disapproval upon her when I found her little tin of buds and leaves hidden high on top of our kitchen cupboard.
But for all the current mothers who were not as angelic as yours truly in their teen years, and who just issued profane exclamations of concern when they saw this headline, here’s more from the Tufts press release:
Mothers who use marijuana as teens — long before having children—may put their future children at a higher risk of drug abuse, new research suggests.
Researchers in the Neuroscience and Reproductive Biology section at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine conducted a study to determine the transgenerational effects of cannabinoid exposure in adolescent female rats. For three days, adolescent rats were administered the cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN-55, 212-2, a drug that has similar effects in the brain as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. After this brief exposure, they remained untreated until being mated in adulthood. Continue reading
The proliferation of easily available medications from “rogue” online pharmacies may be driving the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, researchers report.
Investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Southern California found “states with the greatest expansion in high-speed Internet access from 2000 to 2007 also had the largest increase in admissions for treatment of prescription drug abuse.”
The report, which focused on online pharmacies that dispense drugs without a doctor’s prescription, was published today online by the journal Health Affairs.
According to the news release:
In their report, [Dana] Goldman, PhD, director of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC and lead author Anupam B. Jena, MD, PhD, of the MGH Department of Medicine, note that the recent marked rise in the abuse of prescription narcotic painkillers – drugs like Percocet and Oxycontin – corresponds with an increase in the presence of online pharmacies, many of which do not adhere to regulations requiring a physician’s prescription. Drugs that are frequently abused – painkillers, stimulants, sedatives and tranquilizers – often can be purchased from rogue sites that may be located outside the U.S. The current study was designed to examine the potential link between online availability and prescription drug abuse, an association that has been suspected but not investigated in depth.
Using data available from the Federal Communications Commission, the researchers first compiled statistics on access to high-speed Internet service in each state during the years studied. Since actual rates of prescription drug abuse would be difficult if not impossible to calculate, they used information on admissions to substance abuse treatment facilities from a database maintained by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. Changes in both measures over the seven years were analyzed on a per-state basis, and treatment admissions were categorized by the particular types of abused substances involved.
The analysis indicated that each 10 percent increase in the availability of high-speed Internet service in a state was accompanied by an approximately 1 percent increase in admissions for prescription drug abuse. The increases were strongest for narcotic painkillers, followed by anti-anxiety drugs, stimulants and sedatives. During the same period admissions to treat abuse of alcohol, heroin or cocaine, substances not available online, showed minimal growth or actually decreased.
For more on the prescription drug abuse epidemic — accidental overdose deaths from these medications now exceed crack deaths in the 1980s — listen to this segment of On Point. The program examines the “pill mills” in Florida that funnel the drugs into poor communities of West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, and includes interviews with former addicts on how oxycontin and other prescription narcotics decimated their lives.