According to a recent study from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, young adults 18-24 years old who have occasionally used stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, have impaired neuronal activity.  Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers found that the stimulant users had higher tendencies of impulsivity and consistent patterns of diminished neuronal activity in the parts of the brain associated with anticipatory functioning and updating anticipation based on past trials.  The study is published in the March 26, 2014  issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The occasional stimulant users had taken stimulants on average 12-15 times in their lives, whereas the non-stimulant users had never taken stimulants.  The results suggest that the hard wiring of the brain is affected by the stimulant use and may make people more prone to drug addiction later in life.  Impulsivity is closely linked to drug use and abuse.

This discovery is good news for both professionals and parents because it serves as a means for identifying at-risk youth long before they have any obvious outward signs of addictive behaviors. Even occasional users of ADHD medicationss were observed to make more mistakes during neurological testing. Their performance worsened and tasks became harder for them during the study. By identifying at-risk youth for potential drug abuse, both doctors and parents can make alternative choices and use different methods for dealing with ADHD instead of defaulting to chemical interventions. Another positive finding in this research is that those with impaired neurological activity can begin to re-calibrate their brain function. The next step is for scientists to determine if the brain can be “re-wired” or exercised in a way that reduces or eliminates the changes caused by stimulant use. 

Concerned someone you know may be abusing or addicted to stimulants? 

Some of the major symptoms of stimulant substance abuse include:

Behavioral changes:

  • Problems in school, failure to complete homework
  • Change in activities or friends
  • Heightened attention, long periods of sleeplessness or not eating
  • Unusual behaviors, including secrecy and isolation, unexplained spending
  • Legal problems

Physical consequences:

  • Memory lapses, fatigue, and depression
  • Heart problems and seizures
  • Psychological difficulties including confusion and delusions
  • Unusual behaviors, including secrecy and isolation
  • Aggressiveness, irritability, mood swings
  • Hyperactivity, euphoria
  • Weight loss
  • Dilated pupils, dry mouth and nose

Parents of ADHD children should be aware of the consequences of stimulant use, especially the prescription medicines Adderall and Ritalin.  Be alert for the tendency toward addiction due to stimulant use by your child.

New Hope Recovery Center has seen an increase in clients with addictions who were or are prescribed ADHD medicines.  If you or someone you love would like help with an addiction, contact New Hope Recovery Center  at 888-707-HOPE (4673) or info@new-hope-recovery.com.