A new study done by the Centers for Disease Control reports one in every 13 American children are on some type of psychiatric medication. The majority of those medications are for treating symptoms of ADHD. Critics call the results proof American children are over-diagnosed and over medicated, further opening the door to prescription drug abuse. But some newer ADHD medications claim not only to reduce the risk of abuse, but also work just as well.
We're all familiar with the ADHD medication Adderall, commonly prescribed and commonly abused because of its stimulant qualities. Now, parents of kids suffering from ADHD have another option called Vyvanse.
Tammi Flaminio's 12-year-old son Daniel suffers from ADHD. Diagnosed in the first grade, Daniel had problems focusing in school. So Tammi took him to the doctor who put him on medication to treat his symptoms.
"We decided to do it so it would help him focus on his school work," Flaminio told NewsChannel 7.
Daniel wasn't prescribed the widely known Adderall. Instead his doctor put him on a lesser known medication called Vyvanse. Like Adderall, Vyvanse is an amphetamine, but Dr. Jim Meyer, an Adolescent Medicine Specialist at Marshfield Clinic, says it carries a much lower risk for dependence and abuse.
"Amphetamine works right away. It doesn't have to be converted to anything else to be effective. It's an immediate effect," Dr. Meyer explained. "The Vyvanse isn't going to work that way."
Instead, the Vyvanse has to be absorbed into the bloodstream and slowly converted into an active form.
"We try hard to avoid the four hour because it's more abusable," Dr. Meyer said of prescribing drugs like Adderall. "Kids might want to be high and good energy for four hours, but that may not want to use Vyvanse, which is 16 hours of being more alert."
Melissa Dotter is the Drug Free Communities Program Coordinator with the Marathon County Health Department. She agrees Vyvanse and similar drugs have the potential to reduce incidents of prescription drug abuse.
"I think that as pharmaceutical companies are making more drugs that are time release, they're less likely to be abused in that way."
The big question remains, however, for those who actually need the drug, does it work? For Flaminio the answer is a resounding yes.
"It's working great," she exclaimed. "He's actually on the honor roll so it's helping him stay focused on his school work and what he's doing."
There is a caveat, like with any prescription drug, if misused Vyvanse too could be abused. That's why it's absolutely imperative patients make sure they take their medications as prescribed.