Trends in ADHD drug use on the Puget Sound campus through wastewater analysis

Dan Burgard
October 11, 2012

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medication use is on the
rise in this country.  The most widely used ADHD medications are the
amphetamine-type compounds Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) and
Ritalin (methylphenidate).  According to survey data ADHD medication is
used as a study drug or "Smart Drug" by students without a prescription
on college campuses.  Survey data of non-prescribed drug use has
limitations with accurate reporting and no empirical data of usage
exists in the literature.  This talk examines trends in the use of these
drugs on our campus among low-stress and high stress periods.  The
metabolites of these two drugs, amphetamine and ritalinic acid, are
quantified in campus wastewater using solid phase extraction (SPE) and
liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS).  Trends show
an increase in amphetamine levels during periods of high stress such as
midterms, the last week of classes and finals week over levels from the
baseline low stress weeks such as the first week of classes.  Both
semesters from the 2011-12 academic year were studied and the highest
increase over baseline (760%) occurred during finals week of the second
semester. Ritalinic acid levels gradually climbed first semester but had
no obvious periodic trend second semester.