Prescriptions for drugs used to treat kids and teens for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder have soared 500 percent over the past decade — far outpacing other medical treatments for childhood psychological conditions, new research shows.
The findings, published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, are based on an analysis of prescription-drug trends and ADHD diagnoses involving more than 850,000 children born in Denmark.
The researchers — from the Hospital of Telemark in Norway and Aarhus University and the Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research in Denmark — tracked the medical records of children born between 1990 and 2001.
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They found that 61 percent of children with ADHD, 16 percent of children with autism, and 3 percent of those with other psychiatric disorders were treated with one or more medications typically prescribed for ADHD — methylphenidate, dexamphetamine, and atomoxetine.
When the researchers then compared prescription rates for similar numbers of children between 2003 and 2010, they found a fivefold increase in the number of medications prescribed in that time.
"This study utilizes a population-based national cohort of children and adolescents, and assesses stimulant treatment in children and adolescents," said Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., editor-in-chief of JCAP, and president of the Child Mind Institute in New York. "This is the largest and first prospective study to quantify the change in the use of treatment with ADHD medications over time."
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