We teach our kids that it's important to share with friends and family. We share our toys, our food, our thoughts. But how much do we focus on when we cannot share?
The number of emergency room visits related to stimulant medications like Adderall and Ritalin quadrupled among young adults from 2005 to 2011, says a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The data looked at ER visits that resulted from abuse or misuse of the medications, such as taking medication that wasn't prescribed for the patient, taking larger-than-prescribed doses, and taking stimulants in combination with alcohol.
Peter J. Delany, the director of the office that oversees statistics for the administration, told the New York Times that said the rise was particularly pronounced among 18- to 25-year-olds.
According to the 2011 data, more than half of the patients got the medication for free from a friend or relative, and 17 percent bought it from a friend or relative. About a third of the ER visits resulted from combining stimulant ADHD medication with alcohol.
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These numbers really underscore the importance for those of us with ADHD kids to teach our kids to take their prescriptions seriously: we can't just tell our teens and college kids not to drink; we need to show them these numbers and explain what can happen when you mix Adderall and alcohol. We can't just tell them not to share medications; we need to explain why taking medication that's not prescribed for you can be dangerous.
"Nonmedical" use of these drugs has been linked to heart and blood vessel problems, as well as to drug abuse or dependence, the report states.
"When combined with alcohol," the report continues, "stimulants can hide the effects of being drunk and increase the risk of alcohol poisoning or alcohol-related injuries."
We also need to explain to them that it is against the law to share these meds. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies ADHD meds like Adderall and Ritalin as Schedule II drugs, along with cocaine and OxyContin. Under federal law, "sharing" ADHD meds is the same as distributing or selling them. In other words, if you give your dorm roommate some Adderall to help them cram for an exam, it's a felony.
For a first offense, someone convicted of distributing any amount prescription ADHD meds could be looking at up to 20 years in prison, says the DEA's website. If someone died or there was serious bodily injury because of the distribution, it's a minimum sentence of 20 years. Fines for an individual can be as high as $1 million. And that's just federal law. Your state probably also has something to say about the matter.
Oh, yeah, and if your kid is underage, you the parent will probably be criminally and financially liable for the entire mess.
So…yeah. We need to talk to our kids about this, over and over and over. More and more kids are taking prescription psychiatric medications, and it's incredibly important that they understand the seriousness of not sharing them. Especially as our kids grow into teenagers, and even more so when they go away to college, they need to understand the potential legal and moral ramifications of their actions.
Personally, when my kids go away to college, I'll be sending them with little lockboxes for their medications.
-By Joslyn Gray
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