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Number of Kids on ADHD Meds Increasing

A new study reveals that the use of stimulant medications like Ritalin® and Adderall® in kids diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is continuously increasing. But unlike past decades, the rise is slower.

The researchers looked into the US prescription data for the period 1996 to 2008, which revealed that the use of ADHD meds was highest in kids between 6 and 12 years old.

The most significant rise was in older kids 13 to 18 years old. The drug use doubled in 2008 to 4.9 percent from 2.3 percent in 1996, reflecting the fact that children don’t necessarily grow out of ADHD and that its symptoms can continue even through adulthood.

The study also revealed that there were around 2.8 million kids receiving medication for ADHD in 2008.

Dr. Benedetto Vitiello is a psychiatrist at the US National Institute of Mental Health. He is also the coauthor of this study.

“This study documents that the use of stimulants has been increasing gradually, but not as much as it increased between 1987 and 1996,” Dr. Vitiello noted. It was during 1987 to 1996 that the prescriptions for ADHD in children spiked by as much 17 percent each year.

“Much of the increase is due to the fact that more adolescents are taking the drug than before,” he added.

Dr. Andrew Adesman , a developmental and behavioral pediatrics expert from the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center in NY, believes doctors have been “appropriately reluctant to prescribe medications for very young children.” Dr. Adesman was not part of the study.

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