The number of emergency room visits per year that are directly tied to stimulant drugs like Adderall, Ritalin and others has skyrocketed in the past few years, quadrupling from 2005 to 2011.
Among people aged 18 – 34, the number of emergency room visits caused by these stimulant drugs typically used to treat ADHD rose to 23,000 in 2011 up from 5,600 in 2005.
The reasons for the jump have not been firmly established, but it is known that in 2011, half the people who misused or abused the drugs obtained them free of charge from friends or relatives and 17% bought them from a friend or relative, meaning much of the abuse is of drugs not prescribed by the abusers’ doctor.
“We have a huge issue of easy access,” said SAMHSA chief medical officer Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz. She also pointed out that that was true for both stimulants and opioids, another category of widely abused prescription drugs.
The report focused on emergency room visits that were the result of abuse or misuse of the stimulants.
Misuse of these drugs has been linked to heart and blood vessel problems, as well as to drug abuse or dependence. They can also hide the effects of drunkenness when taken with alcohol, which increases the risk of alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related injuries.
The stimulants measured in the report include prescription drugs, like those used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and to prevent sleepiness, as well as over-the-counter products that contain caffeine, like caffeine pills and caffeinated energy drinks. Illegal stimulants were not included in the report.