ADHD Drug Use By Young Adults Doubled: Report

From the WebMD Archives

March 13, 2014 -- A new report says that the number of young American adults, ages 26 to 34, receiving drug treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) nearly doubled between 2008 to 2012, from 340,000 to 640,000.

It also found that the total number of American adults taking ADHD drugs rose 53 percent during that time, from about 1.7 million to 2.6 million, The New York Times reported.

The use of ADHD medications by children increased 19 percent over the four years. In 2012, 7.8 percent of boys and 3.5 percent of girls ages 4 to 18 were being prescribed the drugs. The rates among youngsters ages 12 to 18 were 9.3 percent for boys and 4.4 percent for girls.

The report was to be released Wednesday by Express Scripts, the nation's largest prescription drug manager. The findings are from an analysis of 400,000 people nationwide, ages 4 to 64, who filled at least one prescription for an ADHD medication from 2008 to 2012, The Times reported.

The findings show that ADHD is being over-diagnosed and treated in children, and that the same situation could occur in adults, according to some experts. The report should prompt discussions about finding solutions to the problem, said Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral pediatrician in Walnut Creek, Calif.

"How long will experts' heads remain in the sand on this epidemic?" Dr. Diller said in an interview with The Times.

Other experts believe the sharp rise in the use of ADHD drugs by adults is due to increased awareness that the disorder isn't limited to children. Some studies suggest that about 10 million American adults have ADHD, which means that the use of drugs to treat the condition in adults will continue to rise.

"We still know that a majority of adults with ADHD are untreated," Dr. Lenard Adler, director of the adult ADHD program at NYU Langone Medical Center, told The Times.