On February 2, 2013 The New York Times posted an article that outlined potentially fatal outcomes of prescribing stimulant medications to patients who feign having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Reporters conveyed the story of Richard Fee, who sought a prescription for Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) to aid in his studying for medical exams after he had experienced more intense focus while illegally taking the drug in college. Richard committed suicide two weeks after his prescription had run out.
Richard’s parents stated that he never showed any symptoms of ADHD and always made impressive grades throughout high school, though their son began exhibiting psychotic symptoms that required medical attention after he became addicted to Adderall.
The article outlined the growing number of college students who seek stimulant medications in order to get higher grades, and the psychological dangers that abusing such medications can carry. As some students illegally obtain these medications and experience effects of focused attention, their desire to fake symptoms of ADHD in order to get prescriptions filled by doctors may put their mental and physical health at risk.
Though stimulant medications can be helpful for some patients correctly diagnosed with ADHD, this story underlines the potential risk associated with abuse of such drugs.
Amphetamines (Adderall, Adderall XR, Desoxyn, Dexedrine, Vyvanse) are medications indicated for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in patients aged 6 years and older. Some medications are also indicated as narcolepsy treatments (Adderall, Dexedrine) or obesity treatments (Desoxyn). Desoxyn was approved by the FDA on December 31, 1943 and other medications were subsequently approved.
FAERS data (from 11/01/1997 to 06/30/2012) was aggregated and standardized by the AdverseEvent RxFilter process. We identified 51 serious adverse events which listed amphetamines as the primary suspect associated with completed suicide. We identified 257 adverse events which listed amphetamines as the primary suspect associated with suicidal ideation or behavior.
Note: This analysis does not take into account the number of patients on each medication. In order to calculate the number of cases involving suicidal ideation or behavior, we aggregated cases listing the following adverse events: MedDRA Low-Level Terms: Depression suicidal, suicidal behavior, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempt.