Nearly 23 percent of children and teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who use stimulant medications are approached to buy, sell or trade ADHD drugs, according to a new study published in the July 2014 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
According to the AAP, ADHD affects approximately 8 percent of children and adolescents. For school-age children with ADHD, the AAP recommends treatment with both behavioral interventions and stimulant medications.
In recent years, stimulant medications have become sought-after drugs by kids who are not diagnosed with ADHD. They attempt to use these drugs before an important exam or study session in an attempt to improve their ability to focus.
ADHD drugs have the potential for misuse and even addiction, so it is important to discuss their use in developmentally appropriate ways, says Robin Blitz, MD, director of developmental pediatrics at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Blitz, a member of the AAP’s Arizona chapter, says being open and honest is key. Tell children that “medication is prescribed by your doctor—only to you, not others. Some people may want to abuse medication or use it for purposes other than what your doctor prescribed and that is not legal or healthy,” says Blitz.
Blitz recommends discussing privacy issues regarding diagnoses and medications. “Health issues should be confidential. Parents can explain this to children to help them understand that we can be private about our health information—not because we are embarrassed about it, but because it is private and personal information, as is other information about our bodies that we only discuss with our doctors and our parents,” says Blitz.
If children are approached, Blitz says that it is important that they feel comfortable telling a teacher, parent or trusted adult, just as they would if they were bullied or someone suggested that they try another type of drug or alcohol, or a cigarette.
When Blitz prescribes stimulant medication to patients, especially adolescents, she discusses the possibility of others wanting to steal, trade or buy their medication so that they are aware of this possibility.
“Parents need to continue this conversation at home, on a regular basis, so that children feel comfortable discussing it if this occurs,” says Blitz. She adds that 23 percent is certainly a number to be concerned about “and the more we discuss things out in the open, the more prepared the child will be.”
When teens go off to college, Blitz says that it is important that they do not advertise that they take ADHD medication and that the medication is kept out of sight.