Newer ADHD Medications Less Likely to Be Abused
> 5/21/2008 4:30:00 PM


Two medications designed for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) could make for safer and hopefully more efficient alternatives for patients who cannot be successfully treated with traditional drugs. They also promise a reduced capacity for the troubling recreational abuse trends that have threatened to sideline the most popular ADHD medications.

Stimulants like Ritalin, while effective for thousands, have become notorious for their intoxicant properties when taken in large doses, and illegally obtained samples are often sold to recreational users to be snorted or, in extreme cases, injected in the same manner as other powdered narcotics like cocaine and heroin. The new drugs look to circumvent this trend: Daytrana, approved for prescription to children aged 6 to 12, is administered through a unique skin patch, providing patients with the formula’s active ingredients in a steady stream throughout the day.  While it contains the same amphetamines as pre-existing medications, it may prove more convenient for parents of young children who have trouble sticking to their oral medication schedule. It also nearly eliminates the possibility of abuse as it releases medication consistently over a 9-hour period rather than in a single immediate dose and does not facilitate the quick burst of adrenaline and pleasure hormones so attractive to stimulant enthusiasts.

Vyvnase is a traditional oral medication, but because it contains certain amino acids that require doses to be metabolized by the stomach before they become active, it will not provide the instant "high" that attracts recreational users to other ADHD medications. Of course, Vyvnase also contains the standard amphetamines, and its potential for abuse or overdose will still be noted on precautionary packaging, official websites and FDA summaries. But the promise implicit in these new offerings may constitute a minor revolution in both the treatment of ADHD and efforts to counter the epidemic stemming from the narcotic use of drugs like Adderall XR and Ritalin LA.

Companies have developed non-stimulant ADHD alternatives in the past. One example is Strattera, which has grown relatively popular, but can produce some of the same undesirable side-effects as popular anti-depressants: pronounced drowsiness, a slight possibility of increased suicidal ideation, and fluctuating moods, and reduced appetite (for that reason, it has also been used to curb binge eating behaviors). Many doctors have expressed expected skepticism over the new medications, stating that they have yet to be convinced of their relative benefits, but distributors have begun a public campaign in the belief that, once presented with evidence of their efficiency, doctors will begin to prescribe them en masse. Experts believe that the drugs could, within the next few years, assume a prominent place in the ADHD medication market. With time, they may contribute to the crucial effort to simultaneously provide effective treatment for the millions who suffer from ADHD and, at the same time, significantly reduce the number of young people who abuse prescription amphetamines. -Patrick Coffee


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