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The Scope of Prescription Stimulant Misuse Among Arizona Young Adults

Prescription Stimulant Use_Misuse

Prescription stimulant misuse has emerged as a significant public health issue in the United States, particularly among young adults. In Arizona, this concerning trend mirrors national patterns and warrants close attention from healthcare providers, educators, policymakers, and communities statewide.

Prevalence of Misuse: A National Crisis

Prescription Stimulant Misuse Among People Aged 18 to 25

SAMHSA paints a troubling picture of prescription drug misuse among young adults:

  • 4.8% of young adults aged 18-25 report misusing prescription stimulants in the past year, the highest prevalence of any age group.
  • While overall misuse has declined recently, the rate among young adults remains concerning.

Populations of Concern

Elevated risk for prescription stimulant misuse

SAMHSA identifies several young adult populations at elevated risk for prescription stimulant misuse:

  • Young adults aged 18-25. 
  • Individuals diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Those with co-occurring mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
  • Substance users, especially those using alcohol and marijuana.

In Arizona, prevention efforts should prioritize high-prevalence counties and students transitioning to young adulthood, including college populations. Screening for mental health concerns and other substance use can also help identify those at risk.

Motivations and Pathways to Misuse

Understanding the reasons young adults misuse prescription stimulants is critical for prevention and intervention.

Performance Enhancement

  • The SAMHSA advisory notes that increasing concentration, alertness, and energy to cope with one’s workload, improving performance on academic tests, and experiencing the euphoria, or high, produced when taken at higher than therapeutic doses are the most common cognitive enhancement reasons reported by young adults who misuse prescription stimulants.

Recreational Misuse

  • While less frequently reported than performance reasons, some young adults misuse prescription stimulants for euphoric effects, out of curiosity, or to experiment.
  • Recreational users may take stimulants orally or via non-oral routes like snorting for a more rapid onset.
  • This pattern of use increases the risks of adverse effects and addiction.

Initiating Use

  • For many, prescription stimulant misuse begins when medication prescribed for ADHD is diverted or shared with others. 

Arizona parents and prescribers play a vital role in preventing diversion through proper storage, disposal, and monitoring of stimulant prescriptions. Screening and educating patients about prescribed ADHD treatments is also critical.

Implementing Targeted Prevention Strategies

Arizona communities can combat prescription stimulant misuse by deploying proven, locally tailored prevention approaches.

College-Based Programs

SAMHSA recommends implementing evidence-based stimulant misuse prevention programs in higher education institutions. Effective programs aim to:

  • Educate them on risks of misuse and dispel myths about stimulant use. 
  • Promote healthy study, stress management and sleep habits.
  • Identify risk and provide support services.
  • Correct social norms and perceptions around stimulant misuse on campus.

Community Prevention Strategies

Strategic Prevention Framework

Arizona community coalitions can integrate prescription stimulant misuse prevention into local substance use prevention strategic plans. SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework offers a roadmap for assessing needs, building capacity, planning, implementing, and evaluating prevention initiatives.

Key strategies applicable statewide include:

  • Training healthcare providers on safe prescribing and patient education.
  • Community education on proper medication storage and disposal.
  • Social media campaigns targeting young adults.
  • Ongoing monitoring of misuse trends and new prevention research.


Prescription stimulant misuse is an urgent yet often overlooked issue impacting Arizona young adults. Though state data suggests our problem may exceed national averages, we have a growing knowledge base and toolkit to make a difference.

By understanding the scale and nuances of stimulant misuse in our communities, strategically targeting prevention to high-risk groups, and mobilizing evidence-based, multisector responses, Arizona can reverse this troubling trend and safeguard the health of our next generation. The time to act is now.

Furthermore, if you want to delve deeper into how prescription drug misuse is highest among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, then check out the pdf attached below. It has all the necessary details so you don’t miss any information. 

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