Ask the Experts

My ADHD Son Has Been Giving Adderall to Friends

“I recently discovered that my attention deficit 17-year-old has been giving his Adderall to his friends. My son does much better when he takes his medication, and I worry that this is dangerous for the non-ADHD kids. He used to have trouble making friends, so I think he will do anything to gain approval. Help!”

There’s a serious epidemic of Adderall misuse in high schools and colleges throughout the country. If an individual without ADHD takes this medication, he or she feels a boost of psychological energy and alertness. Students find that they can pull “all-nighters,” whether to study or spend time with friends. They may decide that they “need” the medication, and go to great lengths to get pills. In extreme cases, frequent abuse of the stimulant, at high doses, combined with sleep deprivation, can lead to psychotic episodes. (Sadly, I’m sometimes called to see teens at this point, and have to consider their hospitalization.) As for adolescents with ADHD, as you’ve found, some decide they no longer need or want to take their medication, or find that they gain peer approval when they give away or sell pills.

The manufacturer of Adderall is aware of this problem. This is one reason that Vyvanse was developed. The rate of absorption is slower, so it doesn’t produce the same energy boost. When I’ve treated patients in your son’s situation, I’ve had luck switching them to Vyvanse.