A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University has found that more young adults than ever are abusing Adderall, a prescription stimulant drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
The study, which compared trends in misuse of the drug and related emergency room visits from 2006 to 2011, was published on Feb. 16 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
Researchers found that the number of 18- to 25-year-olds who abused the drug increased during that time period, while the number of prescriptions for Adderall had not.
Nonmedical use of the drug increased by 67 percent, and related emergency room visits went up by 156 percent. Half of those ER visits occurred after people mixed Adderall with alcohol or other drugs, according to ABC News.
In comparison, trends for other drugs -- including Ritalin, a stimulant that treats the same conditions as Adderall and has many of the same side effects -- stayed the same, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Adolescents saw prescription rates and ER visits associated with Adderall decline over the six-year period, while nonmedical use remained stable.
Researchers found that young adults abusing Adderall were getting it mainly from friends or relatives -- two-thirds of whom had a prescription. Study author Lian-Yu Chen said this trend "suggests that the main driver of misuse and emergency room visits related to the drug is the result of diversion -- people taking medication that is legitimately prescribed to someone else."
"Physicians need to be much more aware of what is happening and take steps to prevent it from continuing."