Sharing ADHD Medications: Should you, or shouldn’t you?

This post was developed in collaboration with Adlon Therapeutics L.P, a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma L.P. Personal opinions expressed within this post are my own.

In a world where peer pressure is a big thing, drugs might seem fun, and curiosity is a significant influencer. Where do you stand in sharing ADHD medications? Do you think it’s OK? Or do you think it is a risk?

As teens and young adults head back to school and interact with other students in one way or another, this is an important topic. After an extended time apart from friends, it may be exciting to reconnect in person or virtually through classes, but it can pose some risk of vulnerability for those with ADHD who have medical prescriptions and pressure from friends to share them.

Parents of ADHD students may have heard of some kids misusing and sharing their medication. It is real, and it is worrisome. ADHD medication sharing and misuse can happen, especially among teenagers and young adults. Misuse includes use of medicine by someone other than who it’s intended for, using prescriptions in ways or amounts other than prescribed, or to get high.

This issue may seem shocking to some parents, but the dangers are there. Being in the know and aware of the possibilities and discussing them with your student can help keep your student from succumbing to a potentially dangerous situation.

There are two types of ADHD medications: stimulant medication and non-stimulant medication. Stimulant medication is the one that is more often misused. There are several ways kids misuse and share medications. Most commonly, misuse of ADHD prescription medications come from the curiosity of a peer who chooses to experiment with the medication.

A physician takes into account many factors when prescribing medication. It is simply not safe or legal for someone to offer their prescription to someone else. Teens and young adults are subject to peers asking them to share or sometimes sell their prescriptions. The significance and consequences can be downplayed within peer groups who just want to “try it.”

Why are teens and young adults with ADHD doing this?

There are some reasons why this happens. The most common thing I hear is that they may want to help a friend get an extra boost in focus and energy to help with their schoolwork. Or they may do so for seemingly harmless fun and peer pressure to use them recreationally.

Sharing or selling pills is a considerable risk. Teens and college students who have not been diagnosed with ADHD sometimes want to try prescription stimulants to improve their grades. However, for those without ADHD, the medication does not increase attention span and can make them stay up all night or increase their heart rate. Some students find these effects desirable and want to continue doing this without understanding the risks.

Prescription stimulants are Schedule II controlled substances and, even when used as prescribed, have risks including severe psychological and physical dependence, substance use disorder, overdose, severe cardiovascular events as well as increased blood pressure and heart rate, and new or worsening mental or psychiatric problems. Misuse of prescription stimulants can increase these risks. In addition, prescription stimulants have common side effects including decreased appetite, insomnia, and nausea.

Given the risks of this alarming concern, there are some ways to help your student prevent this from happening.

1) Keep an open line of communication and discuss the potential of this happening. You might even be surprised at how much they already know about other students who have done this.

2) Help them feel responsible for taking their prescriptions properly. Inform them of the reality that other people misuse, share their medications, and enlighten them of the risks that it may cause them.

3) Set a time to discuss this with their physician. If you observed your child misusing their medication and cannot talk to them about it, having their doctor talk to them is a good idea.

Sharing ADHD medications: Should you, or shouldn’t you? There are NO justifications to making this a good cause. This is not helping anyone out and could potentially cause serious harm.

Young adults with ADHD should not share their medications and those who are not diagnosed with ADHD should not take ADHD medications. Sharing prescription stimulants can cause health problems and/or lead to substance use disorder – and it’s illegal.

You do not want to go down that road!

Here is an excellent relatable video about a high school student, Kyle, who is confronted by a peer about sharing his prescription stimulant medication. Please share it with any student that may face peer pressure with their prescribed medications.

Additional videos and a brief, interactive digital course addressing other important scenarios and topics for managing prescription stimulants are also available at:

Knowledge is power. Just being aware of this pressure can open up a great line of communication with your student as the school year gets started. It can give them time to think through what they would do if confronted by a friend, just as Kyle was in the video I shared.

It can help avoid some real legal problems that come along with sharing medications. I will post a blog about the consequences of sharing medications in another blog.

Michelle R. Raz, M.A. Ed., is a professional executive function coach and educational consultant. She specializes in helping people with executive function challenges associated with ADHD be the best version of themselves in their academic and career journeys.