ADHD Med Use Up Among Young Women, New Report Finds

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Over-medicated America.

It’s about as loaded a term as they come, and endless think-pieces have already been written on the failure of doctors to accurately treat illness, instead relying on excessive prescriptions to do the heavy lifting for them. But a new analysis from Express Scripts, a company that manages pharmacy benefits has found that it might not be as bad it we initially thought — it might actually be worse.

As NPR reports, the overall prescriptions for ADHD rose an astonishing 35.5% from 2008 to 2012. The most common group of people who receives these medications are young boys ages 12 to 18, which is consistent with what we’ve known in the past. What’s troubling, however, is while ADHD med use among children climbed 19%, it soared up to 53% for adults. And adult men are taking less meds, but adult women are actually taking more, as shown by a 4% surge in the numbers.

While ADHD med use among children climbed 19%, it soared up to 53% for adults.
While ADHD med use among children climbed 19%, it soared up to 53% for adults.

So, why do women often go about their ADHD without proper attention? Dr. David Muzina, the national practice leader for Express Scripts, told NPR that young boys tend to get diagnosed because they’re most likely loud and disruptive in their classes. Women, on the other hand, usually aren’t, meaning they could be suffering along in silence. Men who were diagnosed a decade ago as boys may have stopped taking their medications — stuff like Ritalin and Adderall — but women may have only recently been diagnosed, hence the disparity.

This is even more troubling given findings from last fall that reported on the epidemic of over-prescribing drugs that were once thought to be benign, like antibiotics. Antibiotics won’t do much for a patient with a sore throat unless he or she actually has some kind of infection like strep throat. And in the case of strep throat, he or she can head back to work after 24 hours once the medication runs its course. But for people without any discernible illness, taking antibiotics can actually allow bacteria to develop strong immunity, allowing for the creation of super-resistant agents of harm inside our bodies.

The takeaway? Trust your doctor’s word — unless he or she can’t find anything wrong with you. And if you think you’re experiencing ADHD symptoms, get them checked out sooner rather than later. Dr. Muzina forecasts a 25% rise in ADHD meds over the next five years. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

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