(RNN) - A new study says more people than ever are using the stimulant Adderall without a prescription.
Young adults, ages 18 to 25 years old, are the most common offenders, according to research results from a nationwide health survey conducted from 2006 to 2011
Those abusing the medication, which is a central nervous system stimulant prescribed for ADHD and narcolepsy, got it from family and friends, according to the study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
The percentage of adults who admitted they took Adderall without a prescription had increased from 0.73 percent to 1.2 percent, which is about a 67 percent rise in misuse.
Data showed emergency room visits related to Adderall use skyrocketed by 156 percent - but there wasn't a change in the number of prescriptions prescribed to adults.
Adderall's negative side effects can include high blood pressure, strokes, depression, aggressive behavior and mental disorders.
Experts say young adults should be aware of the dangerous effects of the drug when it's taken without a prescription from a medical doctor.
In college, students use Adderall as a study aid to stay awake and finish assignments. Often, they will use far higher doses than recommended for safe treatment or legitimate conditions.
Many students can become dependent on the drug to stay alert without knowing the serious adverse effects the drug can have on their long-term health, according to study co-author Ramin Mojtabai, a professor of mental health at the Bloomberg School.
And although the number of prescriptions for Adderall has dropped, more medical problems have occurred, according to a use news release from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Dr. Lian-Yu Chen, one of the study's authors, suggests that many who end up in emergency rooms have taken medication prescribed to someone else. Chen said physicians need to be aware that some patients are giving other people their prescribed drugs, and preventative methods should be enforced.
There isn't much research on the long term effects of using Adderall, which makes it a high-risk drug.
Researchers collected information from three major sources: National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which is a population survey of substance abuse; along with the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a survey of emergency department visits; and the National Disease and Therapeutic Index and a survey of office-based practices such as prescribing medications.
Over the study's six-year period researchers concluded that unlike the results for young adults, there was a significant, 54-percent decline in the number of adolescents who made Adderall-related visits to the emergency room.
Mojtabai said drugs like Adderall need to be monitored like prescribed painkillers have been in recent years. He suggested prescriptions be entered into a database that physicians can check to make sure patients aren't getting multiple prescriptions and abusing the drugs.
Also, informational campaigns for young adults can help educate them on the serious health risks drugs like Adderall can cause, and warn students that these types of drugs aren't as harmless as they think.