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Adderall: Mother's Little Helper, or Hurt?

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Logan, UTThe risk associated with Adderall, including the possibility of Adderall heart attack and other serious adverse reactions, is further exacerbated by the tendency for Adderall to be abused by a surprising number of people. What's more, it appears there is so much underground activity going on with the ADHD drug that those to whom it is prescribed are having a hard time sourcing it.

The potent combination of four amphetamines is prescribed for serious attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder, given the theory that boosting levels of dopamine in the brain helps the ADHD and bipolar patient to focus. However, as with many drugs that contain amphetamines, unapproved uses on the down low have risen dramatically.

While it's perhaps not particularly surprising to find college students abusing Adderall while they cram for exams, or in an effort to stay awake longer for partying, Adderall and its abuse is turning up in some interesting situations, and the stories can be heartbreaking.

The Los Angeles Times (01.13.12) reflects on the arrest of a Utah woman in December, accused of trading cigarettes to school kids in her neighborhood, in exchange for their Adderall. Sunny Morrisette, 28, told authorities in Logan that she had been under considerable stress, had heard "good things about Adderall and wanted to try it."

In addition to a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, Morrisette was charged with several felony drug offences. It is a felony to consume drugs prescribed to another individual.

The LA Times references Adderall as the latest take on "mother's little helper," a phrase that came into vogue in the 1960s with the advent of Valium. Adderall effects can also be addictive, according to testimony heard in the trial of an accused with ADHD charged with a 2010 stabbing incident in Ohio. According to the January, 2012 issue of the Lancaster Eagle, the man had been prescribed Adderall subsequent to a recommendation that he not be prescribed the medication, and apparently had Adderall in his system when the stabbing occurred.

Abuse and addiction aside, that which forms the basis of many an Adderall lawsuit lay with the potential for Adderall side effects—among them stroke, heart attack and even Adderall death. The US food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported 51 deaths linked to various formulations of Adderall, by 2006.

Some of those deaths have occurred in children to whom Adderall is prescribed to treat ADHD symptoms. Adderall is approved for use in children over three years of age, and the extended release formula Adderall XR is approved for use in children over six years of age.

Health advocates are worried enough about the various Adderall effects that could impact those to which Adderall is properly prescribed and administered. Those prescriptions are increasing; with sales hitting $7.42 billion for 2010, up from $4.05 billion two years earlier, according to the January 13 report in the LA Times.

Equally telling is the rise in prescriptions to women over the age of 26 since 2002—from 800,000 to 5.4 million women eight years later. Prescriptions for women in the 26 to 39 age demographic rose by 750 percent from 2002 to 2010.

Hence the moniker of "mother's little helper." But is the helper, healthy? Especially when abuse of a drug already laden with links to Adderall stroke and other adverse reactions is factored in?

Given the effects of Adderall in general, and the potential for abuse by everyone from young women to college students and now high school students—the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports abuse of stimulants has increased amongst high school seniors to 8.2 percent from 6.6 percent in two years (LA Times 01.13.12)—a continued cause for concern is warranted.

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READER COMMENTS

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This stuff works wonders for those who have trouble keeping up to the pace of this modern world. You can focus and you can do things efficiently. For the right patient, it substantially improves their lives. But like anything, there is the risk of abuse. But with sales like this, it won't be coming off the market anytime soon.

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