HealthDay News — Misuse of prescription stimulant medications may begin at an earlier age than previously believed, according to research published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

To produce population-level, year- and age-specific risk estimates of first time nonmedical use of prescription stimulants among young people in the United States, Elizabeth Austic, PhD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, culled data from 240,160 patients aged 12 to 21 years.

The peak ages for using these medications were between patients aged 16 and 19 years. Each year, just under 1% of teens aged 16 to 19 years start using stimulant medications not prescribed to them. Besides methylphenidate (Ritalin), Adderall, and other attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications, these included prescription diet drugs and medicines that contain methamphetamine.

Prescription diet pills were the most popular stimulant drug misused by females, while Adderall was the drug misused most often by males, according to the study. Problems posed by misuse of the drugs included the risk of dependence, hallucinations, suicide, or sudden death.

Austic suggests efforts to prevent misuse of ADHD medications and other prescription stimulants should begin in middle school.

“We need to have a realistic understanding of when young people are beginning to experiment with stimulants, so we can prevent them from misusing for the first time,” Austic said in a university news release.


  1. Austic AE et al. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2015; doi: