Researchers from the University of Michigan found that kids who take medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatments are more likely to be bullied by their peers compared to kids who do not have the disorder.
Kids who took drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall and other stimulants for their condition were twice as likely to be emotionally or physically bullied by their peers, while kids in middle and high school who shared or sold their medications were four times likelier to be victimized, the study said.
In a report published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, researchers examined how prescription for stimulant medication affected peer victimization among kids with ADHD. They surveyed at least 5,000 students in middle and high school.
Approximately 15 percent of the participants in the study were diagnosed with ADHD and roughly 4 percent took stimulants within the past 12 months. Around 20 percent of kids who took ADHD medications reported being approached to share or sell them, and nearly half of them did, the report said.
Dr. Quyen Epstein-Ngo, one of the study's authors, said the findings were the same for both sexes.
"Having a diagnosis of ADHD has lifelong consequences," said Epstein-Ngo. She explained that these children are not living in isolation, and that as they grow up, their ADHD diagnosis will impact people whom they interact with.
Researchers meanwhile warned parents should tell their kids never to share their medications as the Drug Enforcement Agency classifies ADHD medications in the same category as drugs such as morphine and cocaine. Previous studies showed that ADHD medications can cause harmful side effects.
Claudia Villari, Behavior Intervention Specialist at Pathways of Arizona who was not involved in the study, said ADHD drugs should only be prescribed as a last option.
"We always try to do intervention first before we have you on medication," explained Villari. "So I strongly recommend first let's try intervention to see if it's a behavioral issue."
Dr. Timothy Wilens of the Massachusetts General Hospital, who was also not involved in the study, said the findings should serve as a wake-up call to educators, health care providers and parents to help lessen the chances of these kids being bullied.
"Just by having ADHD you're more likely to be victimized," added Wilens.
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