A message of misuse

New Curtin research has raised concerns about the misuse of amphetamine type stimulants such as dexamphetamine, or ‘dexies’, by young people.

Co-author of the research article, Research Fellow at the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy Dr Martin Whitely, says it is concerning that so many teenagers who had never been prescribed pharmaceutical amphetamines are taking them.

“It appears that many teenagers mistakenly think it is safe to take dexamphetamine, Ritalin and other ADHD stimulants because they are prescribed to children,” Dr Whitely says.

Dr Whitely believes the government needs to do more to audit the number of prescriptions for dexamphetamine.

“In 2015, just one psychiatrist prescribed 2,074 Western Australians with amphetamine-type stimulants,” he says.

Dr Martin Whitely .

Sarah Andrews was diagnosed with ADHD at 40, and says diagnosis and treatment for the condition is invaluable.

“I’ve experienced so much trauma because my ADHD was undiagnosed and untreated, and turned to drugs as a way of self-medicating,” she says.

“All children with ADHD deserve the protection and opportunities that diagnosis, treatment, including medication, and support provide.”

ADHD coach and author of Thriving with ADHD Louise Brown says the use of illicit drugs by undiagnosed individuals with ADHD is often considered to be a form of self-medicating.

Ms Brown believes stimulant medication such as dexamphetamine, is life changing for individuals with ADHD.

“It is not appropriate to make medication access harder than it already is for individuals with ADHD who rely heavily on their medication for symptom reduction and adequate functionality,”

Ms Brown says to avoid putting the outcomes of people with ADHD at risk, it is more appropriate to provide education on the topic than to limit access to medication.

“Put in place education aimed at individuals with ADHD, provide them with strategies to deal with peer group pressure if their friends ask them for medication,” she says.

“Educate stimulant prescribers on the need to educate their patients on the risks of sharing their stimulant medication and how to do so. Put in place community education addressing the risk of non-medical use of stimulant medication.

“Encourage parents to be responsible for the storage and administration of their teenagers or young adult’s medication if they live at home and are at risk.”

A general practitioner at Donnybrook Medical Services Dr Maria Go says when physicians prescribe medication, they always weigh the benefit and risk of a drug.

“For ADHD it [dexamphetamine] increases the focus and concentration, which is the main goal of the treatment,” she says.

Dr Go warns precaution should be in place for when it [dexamphetamine] becomes a drug of abuse and misuse.

Dr Go says families need to be working with the prescribers to guide the prescription and ensure follow up appointments to make sure the goal of treatment is still being achieved.