In a March 2017 case study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, a healthy 24-year-old student experienced chest tightness and shortness of breath after snorting 90mg of Adderall before his final exams, and was subsequently treated in the hospital for heart failure.
And a study published last February in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found Adderall use among adults who didn’t have ADHD—most were 18 to 25 years old—jumped 67 percent in recent years. And emergency department visits related to these medications rose 156 percent from 2006 to 2011, largely driven by the spike in adults misusing the drugs. The top reasons for ER trips included suicide attempts, abuse, and the various side effects of the medications.
Worse, people using these drugs as study aids often get them illegally, which can be dangerous. In the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry study, most of the adults misusing the drug did not have a prescription. Instead, they were getting the medications from a friend or relative. That could explain the rise in some of the ER visits, since they were using the medications without the supervision of a doctor.
“While many people think of prescription opioids when prescription drug abuse is mentioned, non-medical use of stimulants is also very common,” says Caleb Alexander, M.D., one of the study’s authors and a co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“As with all drugs, stimulants have risks and benefits, and all to often, the balance of these is unfavorable,” he adds.