Kids Who Take ADHD Meds More Likely to Be Bullied, Study Finds

Kids Who Take ADHD Meds More Likely to Be Bullied

By Karen Pallarito

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 20, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Teenagers who take drugs like Adderall and Ritalin to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are twice as likely to be bullied as their peers who don’t have ADHD, a new study suggests.

The risk of being bullied is even greater if the teens sell, trade or give away their medicines, researchers found.

However, the research also raises questions about why these kids are targets of frequent taunting or aggression by their peers.

Is it teens’ access to drugs that eggs on bullies, or something else?

“I think it’s fair to say that bullying is a potential risk that’s associated with stimulant treatment for ADHD,” said Quyen Epstein-Ngo, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the study’s lead author.

But Linda Cottler, chair of the epidemiology department at the University of Florida, suggested that it’s the teens’ behavior, not their medication use, that causes the bullying.

“They’re not being stigmatized because they have ADHD and use meds,” said Cottler, who led the first national study examining teens’ and preteens’ prescription stimulant use, published in 2013. “They may have behaviors that other kids are not tolerant of.”

In the study, teens with ADHD faced about the same risk of being bullied whether they had a recent prescription (in the past 12 months) for stimulant medications, or not.

“We’re not quite sure exactly what’s going on there,” said Epstein-Ngo.

The research team was unable to tease out whether kids were being bullied for their medicines or for other reasons.

“They may be putting themselves into riskier situations where they’re more likely to be victimized,” Epstein-Ngo speculated. Maybe they’re being coerced to share their medications, she reasoned.

The study was published Nov. 20 in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

Because of their “calming effect,” stimulant medications are often prescribed to kids who are severely inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Those pills are often bartered, sold or shared with peers who misuse the stimulants to gain a competitive edge in school, the study authors pointed out.

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