Study: More Young Adults Abusing ADHD Diagnosis

By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

— Ninety-five percent of those battling Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are children. However, it’s the 5 percent that is raising new concerns among medical professionals.

An increasing number of young adults, ages 17 to 30 , are now frequently seeking the same diagnosis, according to a new study. There’s growing evidence that ADHD is quickly making its way onto the nation’s college campuses.

Dr. Paul Marshall is a Neuropsychologist with the Hennepin County Medical Center.

“When you have the diagnosis, you get accommodations,” said Marshall, concerning the growing trend among young adults. “For instance, in the classroom setting you might have more time to take a test.”

Perhaps more alarming is the fact that getting diagnosed with ADHD means the patient now has access to powerful stimulants, inclusing Ritalin, Adderall and Dexadrine, which are used to treat the disorder.

Pharmacist Ann Brigino works in the hospital setting and senses a growing level of abuse.

“Especially for students in college or even high school. Students who need to stay up for hours, this agent can help them to do that,” said Brigino.

One such student who chose not to be identified said, “it makes you focus and keeps you up!”

However, taking the tightly controlled medications is also illegal and dangerous if given to someone without a legitimate prescription.

To determine the level of exaggerated symptoms and faulty diagnosis, Marshall and his HCMC colleagues spent five years looking at the cases of hundreds of patients. The data revealed that 22 percent of those evaluated for ADHD exaggerate answers to cognitive and behavioral tests in order to qualify for the diagnosis.

The study’s data will now help clinicians better identify potential cheaters by placing parameters on the test results. The study found those with exaggerated claims were often far slower in their testing reaction times and made far too many errors.

“(Doctors) will know whether they can trust the test results and behavior rating scales that have been completed by the patient,” said Marshall.

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