A new government report reveals that more children are taking drugs for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD.
ADHD is a neurobiological development disorder that is generally characterized with hyperactivity and some attentional problems with the behaviors typically occurring together and presenting themselves before the age of seven. The National Institutes of Health (NIMH) describes ADHD as involving difficulty staying focused, paying attention, and controlling behavior, and with hyper- or over-activity.
From 2002 to 2010, the use of stimulants for ADHD increased by 800,000 prescriptions annually or 46%, according to researchers from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) writing in the journal Pediatrics. The top prescribed drug, Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a stimulant dispensed to more than four million adolescents in 2010, said Reuters. Findings are based on data from IMS Health, a healthcare research firm. Drugs dispensed at hospitals were not included in the research.
“What the article is suggesting is that the number of children that we are treating for attention deficit disorder has gone up,” Dr. Scott Benson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and a spokesperson for the American Psychiatric Association, told Reuters Health. “For the most part I think the overall increase reflects a reduction in the stigma…. It used to be, ‘You’re a bad parent if you can’t get your child to behave, and you’re a doubly bad parent if you put them on medicine,’” Dr, Benson added.
Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral pediatrician and ADHD expert criticized over-prescribing methods, telling Reuters Health, “You have to look at how our society handles school children’s problems. The medicine is over-prescribed primarily, but under-prescribed for certain inner-city groups of children.”
A recent New York Times report noted that stimulant use is, more and more, becoming a popular study drug in children as young as high school age teenagers, pointing out that even healthy students are tricking their doctors into prescribing the medications. “There is no objective test, so obtaining the medications is relatively easy,” said Diller.
We have previously written that at least one study revealed that stimulant medications used to treat ADHD could increase risks for sudden pediatric cardiac death, yet the FDA opted not to change its recommendations on the way in which such drugs are prescribed. There have been worries that such stimulants could be risky in children with undiagnosed heart problems and it is not known how often cardiac events occur in children taking these drugs.
A prior study on which we’ve written found a link to ADHD in children exposed in utero to tobacco smoke and during childhood to lead. The research was conducted at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. We have also written about studies linking phthalate concentrations in urine to ADHD. Phthalates are chemicals that make plastic and vinyl more flexible. The study found a noteworthy link between phthalate metabolite levels in urine to ADHD test results and symptoms, with increased symptoms connected to increased levels.