Attached you find a link http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/01/health/more-diagnoses-of-hyperactivity-causing-concern.html?pagewanted=all to an important article published in today’s New York Times titled “A.D.H.D. Seen in 11% of U.S. Children as Diagnoses Rise” highlighting the staggering increase in ADHD diagnosis and related stimulant prescription use.
Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The figures showed that an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 through 17 had received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis at some point in their lives, a 16 percent increase since 2007 and a 53 percent rise in the past decade. About two-thirds of those with a current diagnosis receive prescriptions for stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, which can drastically improve the lives of those with A.D.H.D. but can also lead to addiction, anxiety and occasionally psychosis.
About one in 10 high-school boys currently takes A.D.H.D. medication, the data showed. Sales of stimulants to treat A.D.H.D. have more than doubled to $9 billion in 2012 from $4 billion in 2007, according to the health care information company IMS Health.Even more teenagers are likely to be prescribed medication in the near future because the American Psychiatric Association plans to change the definition of A.D.H.D. to allow more people to receive the diagnosis and treatment.
The question remains: are millions of children receiving medication merely to calm behavior or to do better in school?
We also should be aware that those medications are often NOT taken as prescribed, shared with or sold to classmates, contributing to diversion long tolerated in college settings and also gaining traction in high-achieving high schools.
The C.D.C. director, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, likened the rising rates of stimulant prescriptions among children to the overuse of pain medications and antibiotics in adults.“We need to ensure balance,” Dr. Frieden said. “The right medications for A.D.H.D., given to the right people, can make a huge difference. Unfortunately, misuse appears to be growing at an alarming rate.”
“There’s no way that one in five high-school boys has A.D.H.D.,” said James Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Florida International University and one of the primary A.D.H.D. researchers in the last 20 years. “If we start treating children who do not have the disorder with stimulants, a certain percentage are going to have problems that are predictable — some of them are going to end up with abuse and dependence. And with all those pills around, how much of that actually goes to friends? Some studies have said it’s about 30 percent.”
As physcians we should stop giving in to parents and patients pressures to prescribe these stimulants indiscriminately. We must refocus our efforts on proper and evidence based ADHD diagnosis, demand special training of stimulant prescribers and tracking of stimulant prescriptions.
Otherwise, we will force the federal government to step in with tighter regulations.