Birmingham, AL By Jane Mundy: When attorney Andy Hollis of Hollis, Wright, and Couch, P.C., talks about Adderall, he gets angry. Hollis knows how much damage and anguish this drug has caused; both as a street drug favored by college students, and as prescription for children over the age of three and adults with ADHD—many of whom have suffered respiratory and heart problems, toxic shock, a host of psychotic problems, and even death.
"Many psychologists consider Adderall as a gateway drug, leading to addiction of other drugs such as cocaine, and it is increasingly even more popular," says Hollis. "For instance, a recent study found that as many as 20 percent of college students use it to study and cram for exams. Many adults consider it a smart drug to replace cocaine but that is not the case."
Adderall is a category 2 drug, which puts it in the same category as cocaine, opium and morphine. In 1996, it was approved for ADHD, and as Hollis points out, it has a high potential for abuse.
Hollis has a litany of facts and statistics arguing the case against Adderall, which is basically a strong stimulant drug prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
"In 2004 the manufacturer [Shire Pharmaceuticals] reported 20 deaths by heart attack and 12 strokes, from children to adults," says Hollis, "and those deaths and strokes occurred mainly in those individuals using Adderall in a prescribed manner. Hollis says those statistics were voluntarily provided by Shaw to the FDA and reported onMedWatch back in 2004. That is when Health Canada removed the drug from the market but the FDA didn't do anything until 2006.
Why hasn't the FDA posted any data since 2006? "It has been proven that only 1 percent of adverse occurrences related to any drug have been reported to the FDA, and most of these adverse reports come from the manufacturer of the drug, so what you have is a situation where the wolf is guarding the henhouse; and the warning for the drug only attributes health problems if it is misused," explains Hollis. "Extrapolate that data and you have a big problem with a drug like Adderall."
(Since 2006, LawyersandSettlements has been reporting on the dangers of Adderall, specifically how it has become a street drug. Given that fact, and combined with millions of dollars in prescriptions for ADHD in children, Adderall has been referred to as a "cash cow" for the manufacturer.)
To make Adderall even more insidious, Hollis refers to neurologist Dr. Baugham, who has stated that the exponential increase in ADHD over the past decade is nothing but pure fraud—and it is mostly happening in the US. Of course this is great news for the drugmakers, but not so for children, some of whom have had strokes—yes, children can have strokes and heart attacks.
How did Adderall become so mainstream? "According to the Association of Psychiatrists, just about half the population in the US has ADHD symptoms," says Hollis. "These symptoms were written in such a manner that half the people in the US would have ADHD."
According to Dr. Baugham, in 1987 there were 14 symptoms attributed to ADHD, and if a child had eight or more of those symptoms, they were diagnosed with ADHD:
• often fidgets or squirms
• trouble staying in one's seat
• can't wait one's turn
• blurts out answers
• trouble following instructions
• can't sustain attention
• shifts from one activity to another
• doesn't play quietly
• talks excessively
• can't listen
• loses things
• does dangerous things, thrill seeking and so on.
Dr. Baugham attributes the Association of Psychiatrists' report (1987) outlining the symptoms or criteria of ADHD as a marketing scheme so that the makers of Adderall and similar drugs such as Ritalin could make more profits.
"This drug is over-prescribed by doctors for a condition that they don't fully understand," says Hollis. "For example, if someone is bipolar and they take Adderall in the manic stage of the condition, they could go into psychosis and not know what they are doing—and that could be very dangerous. As well, Adderall is causing strokes in the customary manner as prescribed, in other words, in people not abusing the drug.