CBS NEW YORK — It’s a disturbing trend: Young people ending up in rehab for prescription drug abuse. But it’s not Oxycontin. They’re getting hooked on medications used to treat attention disorders like ADHD. Now these so-called “study drugs” are leading to life-threatening addictions, reports TV 10-55’s Katie McGee.
When Annie Gendaszek first tried a friend’s ADHD medication, she was just 13-years-old. By the time she got to college, she was abusing the drugs daily. “I really liked the effect and how they made me feel,” she said. “I started lying, being dishonest and stealing,” said Gendaszek.
Dr. Timothy Wilens, of the Center of Addiction Medicine Massachusetts General Hospital, says an estimated five to 10 percent of young people are misusing or abusing ADHD medications. “If you’re just popping them willy nilly and you’re using them in context to other substances, which is frequently occurring, that could be potentially dangerous,” said Dr. Wilens.
Velvet Mangan, of the Safe Harbor Treatment Centers for Women, agrees. “Its huge,” she said. “I have probably a hundred clients, and over 80 percent of them have been addicted to Adderall since they were in grade school.”
Rehab centers report seeing more patients because these drugs are easy to obtain and are socially acceptable. “It’s just kind of the norm on college campuses, just like drinking is,” Mangan said.
“It’s similar to misusing any kind of amphetamine or speed or cocaine,” said Dr. Wilens. “And it’s going to require abstinence from that. It’s going to require recovery management skills, how to fight urges, how to fight cravings.”
While in rehab, patients work on emotional issues that led to their drug abuse. “It’s not what you use, it’s why you’re using,” said Mangan. “So we focus on life skills. We focus on self esteem.”
It worked for Gendaszek. She got help and hasn’t used drugs for almost four years. “It’s a really sad and lonely place to be,” the recovering addict said. “But there is hope and there is a solution.”
Besides being harmful to your health, selling or sharing ADHD prescription drugs is a criminal offense.