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ADHD drug abuse starts in teen years

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UPDATED 6/8/2015

Abuse of stimulant drugs  usually prescribed for ADHD are typically associated with stressed-out college students. But a new study from the University of Michigan Medical School shows that abuse of those drugs typically starts much earlier, in the teen years, with a peak age range of 16 to 18 years for starting to misuse the drugs. 

Study author and postdoctoral research fellow Elizabeth Austic analyzed data from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. The data from more than 240,000 teens and young adults showed interesting information about first-time nonmedical use of prescription stimulants. "The younger that someone initiates misuse, the higher the risk is of becoming dependent on that substance."

Based on her study results, Austic recommends that interventions such as education should begin earlier, before the late teen years when drug habits are formed. 

The study also found females were twice as likely as males to initiate nonmedical use of stimulants with prescription diet pills as opposed to other stimulants. 

Non-Hispanic white and Native American respondents had a higher rate of stimulant abuse than all other races.

The study will be published in the July issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the methodology and conclusions of this study.

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