5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans il­le­gally use stim­u­lants to boost ap­ti­tude.

Some tak­ing drugs to boost con­cen­tra­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY LAURA KELLY

An es­ti­mated 5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are il­le­gally us­ing pre­scrip­tion stim­u­lants, with the ma­jor­ity seek­ing to boost their con­cen­tra­tion and men­tal stamina over ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time, ac­cord­ing to new re­search shed­ding light on am­phet­a­mine use among adults.

Pub­lished on Mon­day in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Psy­chi­a­try, the study is the first na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive sur­vey to com­bine statis­tics on the preva­lence of pre­scrip­tion stim­u­lant use with mis­use, use dis­or­ders and mo­ti­va­tions for mis­use.

Over­all, it found that 16 mil­lion Amer­i­cans over the age of 18 are us­ing pre­scrip­tion stim­u­lants. About 400,000 peo­ple are thought to abuse stim­u­lants.

“I was sur­prised at the large num­ber of adults who use these med­i­ca­tions,” said Dr. Wil­son Compton, the study’s lead re­searcher and deputy di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Drug Abuse, one of the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health.

To­tal pre­scrip­tion stim­u­lant sales for adults have sur­passed those for youth, the re­searchers wrote, and 55 per­cent of to­tal prescriptions in 2015 were to adults age 20 and older.

“We knew there had been in­creases,” Dr. Compton said, “but un­der­stand­ing that an aw­ful lot of peo­ple over age 18 who take these med­i­ca­tions — that most of us think of as pre­dom­i­nantly pre­scribed to chil­dren and teenagers.”

Data were taken from the 2015 and 2016 na­tional Sur­vey on Drug Use and Health, which in­cluded re­sponses from 102,000 adults 18 years of age and older. The sur­vey also had re­spon­dents an­swer if they use and mis­use prescriptions for opi­oids and seda­tives. That data will be re­leased in other stud­ies.

Pre­scrip­tion stim­u­lants in the sur­vey were de­fined as those of­ten pre­scribed for the treat­ment of at­ten­tion-deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der or obe­sity, in­clud­ing am­phet­a­mines like Ad­der­all and methylphenidate, or Ri­talin.

Mis­use is de­fined as us­ing a med­i­ca­tion with­out a pre­scrip­tion for a rea­son other than as di­rected by a physi­cian or in greater amounts or for longer than pre­scribed.

These stim­u­lants in­crease the re­lease of nor­ep­i­neph­rine and dopamine in the brain, in­creas­ing alert­ness, at­ten­tion, en­ergy and a sense of eu­pho­ria. They also in­creases blood pres­sure, heart rate and res­pi­ra­tion.

There are harm­ful side ef­fects with pro­longed use and abuse of the drugs — in­clud­ing anx­i­ety, para­noia, psy­chosis, heart fail­ure and even sud­den death.

“Prob­a­bly the most sig­nif­i­cant is­sue, though, would be be­com­ing ad­dicted — where peo­ple would end up with a com­pul­sion to take them,” Dr. Compton said.

The pro­file of a typ­i­cal abuser tended to be a sin­gle white male be­tween 18 to 49 years old from a lower-in­come back­ground who doesn’t not have a high school diploma. Mem­bers of this group also are likely to have de­pres­sive symp­toms and to use le­gal and il­le­gal drugs.

Of the 11 mil­lion peo­ple who use pre­scrip­tion stim­u­lants prop­erly, the pro­file of the typ­i­cal pa­tient tended to be a woman with pri­vate health in­sur­ance.

More than half of re­spon­dents (56.3 per­cent) said they use pre­scrip­tion stim­u­lants for cog­ni­tive en­hance­ment — to be alert or con­cen­trate — fol­lowed by use as a study aid (21.9 per­cent). About 15.5 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they take the med­i­ca­tions to “get high or be­ing hooked,” and 4.1 per­cent said they use it for weight loss.

Many re­spon­dents who mis­used the pre­scrip­tion stim­u­lants re­ported get­ting the med­i­ca­tions from a fam­ily mem­ber or friend with a pre­scrip­tion (56.9 per­cent), and 21.8 per­cent said they buy or steal pills from friends or rel­a­tives.

“One of the things to keep in mind is that clin­i­cians need to as­sess what pa­tients are do­ing with their med­i­ca­tions and to be con­sis­tently ask­ing what they’re do­ing with left­over med­i­ca­tions,” Dr. Compton said.

The re­searchers noted that de­spite a high level of mis­use, there were low lev­els of dis­or­ders among this pop­u­la­tion, yet it is a trend worth wor­ry­ing about.

“This sub­stance can be mis­used by a broad range of in­di­vid­u­als,” the study said.

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