Adderall Abuse Increases Among High School Students

~the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Responds 2013 Monitoring the Future Study~

New York, NY, December 18, 2013 – The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Study (MTF), an annual survey tracking teen drug abuse among eighth-, 10th- and 12th- graders, shows an increase in the abuse of the prescription medicine Adderall among high school seniors in the U.S. over the past few years. Adderall is a prescribed stimulant that is commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

According to MTF, the past-year non-medical use of Adderall among American high school seniors has been steadily increasing since 2009 when abuse rates were 5.4 percent. In 2010 and 2011, past year Adderall abuse increased to 6.5 percent among 12th-graders, continued increasing to 7.6 percent in 2012 and is now at 7.4 percent in 2013.

“The rates of Adderall misuse and abuse among high school seniors remains unacceptably high and the new data make it very clear: the abuse of all prescription medicines is an immediate threat to the health of America’s teens,” said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Another year of data and a harsh spotlight specifically on prescription stimulants must serve as a call to all families to address the issue of intentional medicine abuse. The risks are real and products with abuse potential surround our kids in our own homes. Every home with a child and every parent needs to take action. Monitor your prescriptions, educate your kids and dispose of old medicines.”

He continued, “Medicine abuse is classified as an epidemic and is an entirely preventable adolescent and young adult health crisis. Recent media reports underscore the massive surge in the prescribing of prescription stimulants to our nation’s children. Combine the existing daily damage from prescription opioid abuse together with a range of other medicines that are abused, and we ourselves have created this crisis. And only we can solve it by working together to put the focus on our youth to prevent intentional abuse and demand appropriate prescribing, along with other controls.”

The 2013 MTF survey of approximately 41,600 youths in eighth, 10th and 12th grades shows mixed news regarding the abuse of other Rx medications. Along with the continued abuse of Adderall, in the past year:

  • Only 2.3 percent of high school seniors report abuse of Ritalin, another ADHD medication.
  •  Abuse of the pain reliever Vicodin has shown a marked decrease in the last 10 years, now measured at 5.3 percent for high school seniors, compared to 10.5 percent in 2003.
  •  Only 5 percent of high school seniors report abusing cough products containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM), down from 6.9 percent in 2006, the first year DXM abuse was measured by the MTF survey.

Beyond Teen Rx Abuse: Anti-Marijuana Attitudes Eroding and High Rates of Marijuana Use

The new data also showed that teen perceptions of the harmfulness in marijuana use is down dramatically over the past two decades, and among older kids, those erosions in anti-marijuana attitudes are now at the absolute lowest levels they have been since the late 1970’s, when MTF began tracking the trend. Research has consistently shown that the less risky a child believes a drug to be, the more likely he is to use it.

The MTF survey shows that the percentage of high school students who see great risk in regular marijuana use has decreased with only 39.5 percent of 12th-graders now viewing regular marijuana use as harmful. This is down notably from last year’s rate of 44.1 percent and is considerably lower than rates from the last two decades. The study found that 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily compared to 6 percent in 2003 and 2.4 percent in 1993.

Nearly 23 percent of seniors say they smoked marijuana in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked it during the past year. For 10th-graders, 4 percent say they use marijuana daily, with 18 percent reporting past month use and 29.8 percent reporting use in the previous year. More than 12 percent of eighth-graders say they used marijuana in the past year.

“Marijuana use – particularly beginning in adolescence – brings the risk of serious problems later in life, according to the latest science and our own data have shown it can lead to childhood involvement with alcohol and other drugs as well,” said Pasierb. “Kids who begin using drugs or alcohol as young teens are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders when compared to those who use later in life. This is of particular concern because we know that 90 percent of adult addictions have roots in the teenage years.”[1]

Parents Weigh in on Legal Marijuana Use and Effects on Kids and Teens

A nationally representative survey released earlier this year by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids found that even parents who support the legalization, decriminalization or medicalization of marijuana expect strict regulation of the substance’s availability to kids and teens. While 40 percent of adults reported they are in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, a majority of them oppose any form of legal marijuana for use among kids and teens. They believe that, like alcohol, it should only be legal for adults over the age of 21. The online study also found that despite shifting attitudes in support of marijuana legalization, the risks of marijuana – especially to young people – is a relevant topic that is of concern to parents and caregivers.

“We live in a reality where marijuana is now legalized for recreational use in the states of Colorado and Washington, and it’s clear that society’s views on marijuana are evolving dramatically,” said Pasierb. “This research provides richer insight into what today’s parents believe about marijuana, their thoughts on legalization and the risks it may pose to adolescents. The data bring to life the fact that parents – including the large number who favor legalization – have serious expectations that legal marijuana will be regulated and restricted to protect kids and teens, and that marijuana will not be mass marketed and turned into another industry designed to drive use of its product. The expectations expressed in the research far exceed how legal marijuana is being implemented. So the fact remains, whether marijuana is legal or not, much more needs to be done to protect the health of our children.”

The Medicine Abuse Project Unites Stakeholders and Families to Curb Growing Teen Epidemic

With the ultimate goal of preventing half a million teens from abusing medicine by 2017, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and a cadre of 80+ nonprofit organizations and associations, seven Federal agencies, representatives of industry and beyond have come together to form The Medicine Abuse Project, a multi-year national mobilization program to help educate parents, teens and the public about the dangers of medicine abuse and unite all facets of society – especially teen influencers – to help end medicine abuse.

The Project aims to drive awareness and action, encouraging parents to safeguard the medications in their home, track quantities and talk with their families about the dangers of medicine abuse.

Since the launch of The Medicine Abuse Project, thousands of people have taken the Pledge to #endmedicineabuse and almost $20 million has been donated in television, radio, print and digital advertising time and space to support the initiative. Additionally, the campaign has generated over 200 million media impressions helping drive awareness about the health risks of medicine abuse.

Visit and take the Pledge to become educated about this important health issue. Join the global conversation and share your story on Twitter by following @MedicineAbuse and using the hashtag #endmedicineabuse.

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[1] National Survey on Drug Use and Health

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    Lucas Galliher

    October 7, 2015 at 10:51 PM

    Prescription drug abuse is something that is very apparent in our day and age. Though it has gone down, teens are still using them and abusing medication. Adderall is a popular medication with teens. There are many attributes that send teens to prescription medication. It is terrifying just how popular they are, especially with high school students.

    In a book review by The New York Times, they talk about an author that had suffered from writer’s block. In order to solve the problem the author started to take Adderall. Though this article is about a grown adult, we can see some of the same factors in students and teens who start to take medication. Adderall and Ritalin are popular with students to help with academic pressure. The University of Michigan wrote an article about how most of the students who take Adderall started in their senior year of high school. This is the time when students are starting to feel a lot of pressure about what they want to do for their livelihood. Just like the author in the New York Times article, the students begin to see that they need to work to achieve a higher standard than they were previously used to, and sometimes they choose the quick fix. They see this medication as “safe” because it is being given away by doctors, but it is really the other way around. Students don’t even know what they are taking; all they know is that doctors are giving these medications away. This is the classic problem of “judging a book by its cover”. Something can boast an appealing exterior but can have the potential to destroy your life. I personally agree with all the points given in the blog. Students should take actions that could help them, rather than hurt them. We should set up programs to help them create study groups and more positive ways to study. Giving students what they need can help us cut down on the amount of students who are using these drugs for ulterior purposes.

    Teen drug abuse has decreased in the past couple years, but that does not mean it is not still a pressing issue. Prescription medications like Adderall seems like quick fixes but can have severe consequences. Though people think that they are “safe” drugs, they may lead the user to experiment with deadlier street drugs like Heroin. Adderall could be that gateway drug. Teens today will be the leaders of the future, and we need to try and help them the best that we can.

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    Thomas Lartin

    December 3, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    People think of medicine in one way and then think of illegal drugs in another way, but Adderall like other amphetamines increases dopamine release and thus is also highly addictive. It pains me to think about what these children’s hearts will look like after so many years of taking what is in truth a type of speed.

    I used to think Marijuana was no big deal, and yes it is a powerful medicine but it is way more addictive than I ever knew until my wife went through terrible withdrawals. There is no question whether it is addictive or not, I think because people have such a nonchalant attitude it is an addiction that can sneak up on you.

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    M Emory

    July 10, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    This articled failed to mention how some teens like to sell their prescription drug Adderall. I work in a high school. I’ve been told each pill can sell for $5 to $10 dollars each. This is another concern as the teens that are suppose to be taking it are selling it for cash.

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