Teens on ADHD Meds Face Higher Risk of Bullying

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Children taking attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder drugs (ADHD) are twice as likely to face bullying compared to peers who don’t have ADHD.

Quyen Epstein-Ngo, PhD, of the University of Michigan, and colleagues surveyed about 5,000 middle and high school students over four years. Approximately 15% had ADHD, and 4% had been prescribed stimulant medication over the prior year.

One of five students taking ADHD meds were approached to share or sell the pills, and about half of them did so. And these students were 4.5 times more likely to be victimized by peers than teens without ADHD, the researchers reported.

The study comes as the number of ADHD cases in the United States have been rising. Between 2003 and 2011, ADHD cases increased by 42%. And between 2007 and 2011, ADHD cases treated by stimulants rose by 27%.

Epstein-Ngo said it’s unclear why those taking ADHD drugs are most susceptible bullying, but offered that being pressured to give up their medications is probably a factor. She added the findings shouldn’t deter parents from continue to give children with ADHD stimulants for the condition.

ADHD “youth aren't living in isolation,” Epstein-Ngo said in a statement. “As they transition into adulthood, the social effects of their ADHD diagnosis will impact a broad range of people with whom they come into contact.”

Teens on ADHD Meds Face Higher Risk of Bullying
Kids With ADHD are twice as likely to face bullying than peers who don't have the condition.

Kids and teens who take medications like Ritalin to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are twice as likely to be physically or emotionally bullied by peers than those who don't have ADHD, a new University of Michigan study found.

At even higher risk were middle and high school students who sold or shared their medications—those kids were four-and-a-half times likelier to be victimized by peers than kids without ADHD.

The main findings are the same for both sexes, said the study's first author, Quyen Epstein-Ngo, research assistant professor at the U-M Institute for Research on Women and Gender and a fellow at the U-M Injury Center. Carol Boyd, professor of nursing, is the principal investigator.

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