Q: My 15-year-old son started taking Ritalin for his ADHD when he was 8. Is he at greater risk for drug abuse or addiction because he’s been taking this medication?
Lynda M., Springfield, Indiana
A: Back about 10 or 12 years ago, some people thought this was a real possibility, but since then studies have shown that kids who start on prescription ADHD meds, such as Ritalin or Adderall, when they’re young are not more likely than other kids to become addicted to other drugs as they become young adults. (And yes, a recent study from the University of Michigan Medical School reveals that kids 16 to 19 are trying stimulants for the first time at higher rates than we previously thought.) But the kids who are at risk? Those without ADHD who use and abuse such ADHD medications to boost study time (it doesn’t increase retention) or to get a buzz.
So where are they getting them? Often from pals who legitimately take the meds for ADHD. If a teen, like your son, has been taking ADHD medications for a long time, chances are his classmates know. This could make him popular for the wrong reasons. Some studies show that around 25 percent of adolescents who have an ADHD prescription either share or sell it, and about one in 14 report that they’ve had their meds stolen.
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So we suggest that you and all parents of kids taking ADHD medications talk to your child about the risks of giving a classmate their medications. But with the right information and support from you, Mom, and your dedication to increasing your child’s self-confidence, he will be able to deflect such requests effectively.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.