Slow, Steady Rise in Stimulant Use for ADHD Since 1996

Adolescent use up, decrease in preschoolers, with variations in gender, geography, racial group

THURSDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The use of stimulant medications for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has increased consistently since 1996, with greater use in adolescents and decreasing use in preschoolers, according to a study published online Sept. 28 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Samuel H. Zuvekas, Ph.D., and Benedetto Vitiello, M.D., from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in Rockville, Md., investigated the use of stimulant medications for treatment of ADHD in U.S. children aged 18 years and younger from 1996 to 2008, using the data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Therapeutic stimulant use was analyzed to determine trends based on age, gender, race, family income, and geographic region.

The investigators identified a consistent increase in stimulant use at an overall annual growth rate of 3.4 percent over the study period. Approximately 3.5 percent of children received stimulants in 2008 versus 2.9 percent in 1996. The use of stimulants in adolescents increased, with an annual growth of 6.5 percent, whereas there was no significant change in use in 6- to 12-year-olds, and use decreased in preschoolers. The use of stimulants remained higher in boys versus girls, and lower in the western United States. There were no differences in use with respect to family income, but use was significantly lower in racial/ethnic minorities.

"Overall, pediatric stimulant use has been slowly but steadily increasing since 1996, primarily as a result of greater use in adolescents," the authors write.

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