David Sorenson, M.D., is medical director of the Anna Jaques Hospital Child Psychiatry Inpatient Unit in Amesbury, Massachusetts. His experiences with patients misusing ADHD medications should give us pause.
“Many psychiatrists are naive about stimulants. I’ve heard a lot of stories about what kids are actually doing with their medications by listening to them ‘brag’ about it after an inpatient admission. For example, Concerta is supposed to be non-abusable, but one kid recently told me she had found a way to do it, which she called “parachuting.” Often, the patient is not actually abusing the drug, but either selling it at school, or allowing it to get into someone else’s hands at home. For example, a patient and his father had been coming into appointments saying that “for some reason” they were running out of Adderall before the refill date. The patient swore he wasn’t abusing it, while the father was very angry and suspicious that he was. As it turned out, some of the patient’s friends knew he was taking a stimulant, wanted to get high, and were raiding the medicine cabinet when they came over. In another case, a patient had a 21 year old brother whose girlfriend came to the house a lot. She began to act “weird”, and her boyfriend found a stash of his brother’s Ritalin in her purse. She called it her “Vitamin R”. Basically, when stimulants are left around the house, it’s a real temptation. Whenever I’m suspicious about possible abuse or selling, I ask parents to not leave the pill bottles in the patient’s bathroom, and to supervise the taking of the medication.”