Many Teens Start Misusing Stimulants By Age 13

Rob Wipond

An equal percentage of young people will start misusing ADHD-related and other stimulant drugs for the first time at age 13, as will start at age 20, according to a study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The study challenges common beliefs that most stimulant misuse begins among college students, the author stated.

University of Michigan postdoctoral student E.A. Austic examined data from the US National Surveys on Drug Use and Health 2004–2012 covering youths aged 12 to 21 years.

“Peak risk of starting nonmedical use of prescription stimulants was concentrated between ages 16 and 19 years, when an estimated 0.7% to 0.8% of young people reported nonmedical use of these medicines for the first time in the past twelve months,” Austic wrote. “Smaller risk estimates ranging from 0.1% to 0.6% were observed at ages 12 to 15 years and 20 to 21 years.”

A press release about the study stated that, “while most education and prevention programs around stimulant misuse have been aimed at the college population, her results show that respondents aged 20 and 21 had the same rate of starting stimulant use as those aged 13 and 14. If a young person is going to start using stimulants, he or she is most likely to start in the late teen years.”

Austic also found that by age 18, “the rate of starting stimulant misuse was twice as high among young women as it was in young men.”

Meier), E. A. Austic (formerly E. A. “Peak Ages of Risk for Starting Nonmedical Use of Prescription Stimulants.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 152 (July 1, 2015): 224–29. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.03.034. (Abstract)

Teens start misusing ADHD drugs and other stimulants earlier than you might think (University of Michigan press release on MedicalXpress, June 2, 2015)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the interfaces between psychiatry, civil rights, the justice system, and social change. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, nine Western Magazine Awards, and five Webster Awards for journalism. He is currently working on a book about people's experiences of forced psychiatric treatment, and can be contacted through his website.