Kids get ADHD meds illegally, becoming addicted

Growing number of kids getting the drugs illegally, becoming hooked

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A growing number of kids are being treated for addictions to ADD and ADHD prescription medications.  Those prescriptions are being passed out, sold and abused leading to life-threatening addictions.

Annie Gendaszek was introduced to ADHD medications when she was 13 years old by a friend with a prescription.

"I really liked the effect and how they made me feel, so I sought out my own prescriptions from doctors," said Gendaszek.

By the time she was in college, she was abusing the drugs daily and knew she needed help.

"Significant weight loss, irritable moods. I started lying, being dishonest, stealing," she explained.

Dr. Timothy Wilens, the director for the Center of Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital says an estimated 5 to 10 percent of young people are misusing or abusing ADHD medications.

"If you're just popping them willy nilly and you're using them in context with other substances, which is frequently occurring, that could be potentially dangerous," said Wilens.

Rehab centers report seeing an influx of patients addicted to the drugs. 

"It's huge. I have probably a hundred clients and over 80 percent of them have been addicted to Adderall since they were in grade school. It's an enormous rise from just 10 years ago," said Velvet Mangan, CEO of Safe Harbor Treatment Centers for Women.

Experts blame the fact that the drugs are easy to obtain and socially acceptable.

"It's just kind of the norm on college campuses, just like drinking is," said Mangan.

According to the experts, the typical values that exist in families around the use of illicit drugs don't seem to come into play here.  But the DEA lists these prescription stimulants as schedule two controlled substances, the same as Cocaine and Oxycontin.

"It's similar to misusing any kind of amphetamine or speed or cocaine. And it's going to require abstinence from that. It's going to require recovery  management skills, how to fight urges, how to fight cravings," said Wilens.

Rehab centers also focus on the emotional problems behind the substance abuse. 

"It's not what you use, it's why you're using. So we focus on life skills, we focus on self esteem," said Mangan.

Through rehab, Gendaszek got the help she needed.  And she's celebrating nearly four years sobriety.

"It's a really sad and lonely place to be. But there is hope and there is a solution," she said.

Experts point out that in addition to being harmful to your health and addictive, selling your ADHD prescription or even just giving it away to your friends is actually a felony offense.  If convicted, you face serious penalties including fines and jail time.

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