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Abuse of ADD and ADHD drugs rises in the teenage community

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Health experts say an estimated 5% to 10% of young people are misusing or abusing ADHD medications.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - When you think of drug rehab, you probably think Cocaine, Heroin, Oxycontin.

But some different drugs are sending an exploding number of kids into treatment these days.

They’re ADD and ADHD drugs, and they're leading to life-threatening addictions and sending kids into rehab for Ritalin.

"I really liked the effect and how they made me feel,” said addict Annie Gendaszek.

A friend with a prescription introduced Annie to ADHD medications when she was just 13-years old.

“So I sought out my own prescriptions from doctors,” said Annie.

By the time she was in college, she was abusing the drugs daily and feeling the effects.

“Significant weight loss, irritable moods. I started lying, being dishonest, and stealing,” said Annie.

Experts say it's a problem. An estimated 5% to 10% 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 Dr. Timothy Wilens with Massachusetts General Hospital.

Rehab centers say they're 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 CEO of Safe Harbor Treatment Centers for Women Velvet Mangan.

The drugs seem to be easy to obtain and socially acceptable.

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

The typical values against 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 Dr. Wilens.

But it is treatable through rehab. Annie got the help she needed and she's about to celebrate four years of sobriety.

”It's a really sad and lonely place to be but there is hope and there is a solution,” said Annie.

If addiction isn't scary enough, selling an ADHD prescription or just giving it away to your friends is actually a felony offense and could lead to jail time.

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