ER Visits from ADHD Medications on the Rise

Between 2005 and 2010, the number of ER visits from ADHD medications rose from just over 13,000 to a staggering 31,000. Even when taken as directed, ADHD medications involve serious risks, which are significantly heightened when they are misused or taken without a prescription.

Perhaps the nation’s most popular ADHD medication, Adderall, has been linked to reports of sudden death and cardiovascular problems in patients, and was withdrawn from Canadian markets in 2005. In 2009, the FDA released the results of studies examining the potential risks of stimulant medications, and found that they were indeed linked to sudden death in healthy children and adults.

In one such case, a 31-year-old physical therapist was prescribed Adderall because he was experiencing difficulty concentrating after a hard breakup. He complained of chest pains to his friends, but attributed the pains to intense workout sessions. He had a family history of heart issues – his mother had double-bypass surgery at age 50, and his grandmother died of heart disease. His psychologist prescribed him Adderall anyway, and on his death certificate, it states that the cause of his death was amphetamine-induced coronary artery disease. Amphetamine mixed salts is the generic name for Adderall.

According to the CDC, abuse of ADHD medications is increasing rapidly in the United States, as an estimated 25% of students regularly take Adderall or Ritalin without being prescribed. Many students say the ADHD medications are easier to get than beer, which is evidenced by the fact that sales of Adderall have increased more than 30 times since 2001.

ER visits from ADHD complications in females aged 18 to 25 more than tripled between 2005 and 2010, from 4,000 to 14,000. For men, the number doubled to 17,000. In 2010, half of those visiting the ER from ADHD medications were not prescribed. One quarter of those visits involved another prescription drug. One in five cases involved mixing the medication with alcohol.

A few years ago, a class action lawsuit was brought against Novartis, alleging the drug manufacturer, along with the American Psychiatric Association, conspired to create, develop, promote, and confirm ADD and ADHD diagnoses in children throughout the country. The suit argued that Novartis, which manufactures Ritalin, did this in effort to increase market sales. Plaintiffs also argued that Novartis misled by public by not addressing the serious risks of Ritalin in its promotional material.

GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures Dexedrine, saw this action taking place and subsequently amended its warning label to state that misuse of amphetamines may cause sudden death and serious cardiovascular problems. Additionally in response to this Ritalin litigation, then-U.S. House Judiciary Chair, Henry Hyde, filed a request to conduct an investigation into the drug’s abuse in public schools.

Other popular ADHD medications include Strattera, Vyvance, and Concerta. Strattera particularly has been linked to increase of suicidal thoughts and actions. Some doctors are even taking to prescribing ADHD medications for purposes not listed on its label, for example, in patients with bipolar disorder. This is extremely dangerous, however, as it may induce manic and psychosis episodes in those users.

In February 2006, the FDA reported more than 50 deaths in patients taking ADHD medications, many of whom were children. One student at Vanderbilt University took his own life after abusing Adderall, often mixing it with alcohol.

ADHD medication lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn that, although these medications are widely prescribed, they come with very serious risks. If you or someone close to you was seriously hurt by the use of these medications, you may be entitled to compensation.


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