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ADHD Medication Use Spikes in Adults

Update Date: Mar 13, 2014 11:08 AM EDT

Even though attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often viewed as a child's condition, a new study is reporting that adults with ADHD have been taking more prescription medications recently. The study discovered that over the past few years, ADHD medication use in young adults has nearly doubled.

"The rapid increase in adult use of these medications is striking, especially since there is very little research on how these treatments affect an older population," said Express Scripts' Dr. David Muzina according to NBC News. "It signals a need to look more closely at how and why physicians prescribe these medications for adults, particularly women, who may turn to these medications, or experience symptoms of attention disorders, as a result of keeping up with the multiple demands on their time."

In this report, Express Scripts, which is the country's largest prescription drug manager that is in charge of processing prescriptions for roughly 90 million Americans, examined prescription medication use from 2008 through to 2012. The researchers analyzed a nationally representative group of people. The 400,000 participants were between the ages of four and 64. They had filled out at least one prescription for an ADHD drug.

During this time frame, prescriptions for ADHD almost doubled for adults from 1.7 million in 2008 to 2.6 million in 2012. For young adults between the ages of 26 and 34, ADHD medication use increased from 340,000 to 640,000. For young boys, around 10 percent took some kind of drug for ADHD. The researchers noted that in 2012, the percentages of boys and girls who were prescribed with ADHD drugs were 7.8 and 3.5 respectively for the age group of four to 18. In the age group of 12 to 18, the rates were 9.3 percent for boys and 4.4 percent for girls. ADHD medications include stimulants, such as Adderall and Concerta, and non-stimulants, such as Strattera.

"It's hard to dismiss the data in this report," said Brooke Molina, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine reported by the New York Times. "There are limitations with every study, but it's hard to do anything here but conclude that we have a continually forward-marching increase."

The report can be found here.

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