Thanks to an increasing reliance on stimulants among parents and schools to combat attention deficit disorders among kids, more meds have been prescribed in recent years. But what does that usage look like exactly? Well, ADHD pills were used by 3.5 percent of children 18 years old and younger in 2008, up from 2.4 percent in 1996, according to a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
However, usage was most pronounced among teenagers: the rate increased 6.5 percent annually. In 1996, 2.3 percent of those between 13 and 18 years old were taking ADHD pills, rising to 5 percent by 2008. This increased use occurred as the meds became more popular and new formulations appeared. As MedPage Today notes, 9 percent of kids ages 6 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point, raising concerns that misuse occurred.
"As the market for ADHD medications has expanded, concerns have been raised about the possible misuse and abuse of stimulants, especially because the increase in ADHD diagnoses has been most marked in adolescents," wrote the researchers, Samuel Zuvekas of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and Benedetto Vitiello of the National Institute of Mental Health.
To gauge patterns, they analyzed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and found that approximately 2.8 million children were using stimulants in 2008, which amounted to annual increase of 3.4 percent since 1996. And while the usage rate was highest among children ages 6 to 12, this has remained steady - 4.2 percent using the pills in 1996, compared with 5.1 percent in 2008.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, three times as many boys as girls were given ADHD pills - 5.3 percent compared with 1.6 percent. As for the youngest kids, usage among those under 6 years old was estimated at 0.3 percent to 0.4 percent before 2004, but fell to 0.1 percent thereafter and remained at that level. Among whites, usage was 4.4 percent compared with 3 percent among African Americans and 2.1 percent among Hispanics; rates for minorities, by the way, rose since 1996 (here is the abstract).