Poll finds a dangerous 'mismatch' between actual student stimulant use and parental suspicion of drug abuse

May 21, 2013

The National Poll on Children's Health from U-M's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital found that only 1 percent of parents believe their teens use stimulants—ADHD drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse—to boost their academic performance, while by the end of high school, 12 percent of students admit to having taken such drugs, but not to treat ADHD.

According to the poll's director, Dr. Matthew Davis, the discrepancy between what teens are actually doing to improve academic performance and their parents' suspicions about it is a dangerous "mismatch." Reporting the poll's results, the Los Angeles Times noted that: "54 percent of white parents, 38 percent of African American parents and 37 percent of Latino parents said they were "very concerned" about illicit study drug use among adolescents in their communities. But only 27 percent said they had talked to their kids about study drugs." Stimulant drug use is higher among white teens than other groups.

Davis told the Times that parents "may see prescription drugs differently than illicit drugs that people buy on the street," but that such drugs are nevertheless dangerous. Non-ADHD teens who use stimulants risk acute exhaustion and arrhythmia, among other health issues.

Davis also noted that there's no indication that non-ADHD teens taking stimulants experience an increase in academic performance.