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Abuse of ADHD drugs expands beyond campuses
As students who abused drugs like Adderall in college graduate, they bring their dangerous habits to the workforce. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
A recent report from The New York Times revealed an unsettling development in America's relationship to ADHD drugs: Stimulant abuse has arrived in the world of business.

"Reliable data to quantify how many American workers misuse stimulants does not exist. But in interviews, dozens of people in a wide spectrum of professions said they and coworkers misused stimulants like Adderall, Vyvanse and Concerta to improve work performance," The Times reported.

The article described a woman popping a few pills so she could work into the wee hours finishing a presentation, as well as a young accountant who felt she needed the medicine to keep up with co-workers.

The users included in the piece highlighted what they gained from cutting corners on sleep. But, as the health care providers interviewed noted, it's what's potentially lost that should be on the mind of all Americans.

"Doctors and medical ethicists expressed concern for misusers' health, as stimulants can cause anxiety, addiction and hallucinations when taken in high doses," The Times reported.

Additionally, "when taken in doses and via routes other than those prescribed, prescription stimulants can increase brain dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and attention) in a rapid and highly amplified manner," leading to a feeling of euphoria and increasing the likelihood of addiction, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported.

In recent years, stimulant abuse has increasingly been viewed as a crisis for colleges, where, according to one recent study, around 1 in 6 students misuse stimulants. But as these students graduate, they enter the workforce and bring their dangerous drug habits with them.

The use of attention-enhancing drugs by people who have no medical need for them complicates the work of health care providers, who cannot rely on a laboratory test to make a definitive ADHD diagnosis.

"No single test can diagnose a child as having ADHD," the National Institute of Mental Health reported. "Instead, a licensed health professional needs to gather information about the child, and his or her behavior and environment."

As NIMH's information implies, ADHD is generally understood as a childhood disorder, and many children can stop prescription drug treatments as they mature.

However, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, around 4 percent of America's adult population suffers from attention problems, which can complicate relationships with loved ones and make it difficult to succeed in a traditional work environment.

Because of the consequences of unsupervised use of drugs like Adderall, medical professionals urge anyone whose quality of life is impacted by attention problems to seek help from a health care provider. As the Mayo Clinic notes in its description of adult ADHD, "each person is unique," and treatment plans might not require prescription pills to be effective.
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