WEDNESDAY, Sept. 28 (HealthDay News) -- The use of stimulant medications such as Ritalin or Adderall in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is continuing to climb, although at a slower pace than in decades past, a new study finds.
The study's authors tracked U.S. prescription data from 1996 to 2008. They found the use of ADHD drugs was the highest among kids aged 6 to 12, rising slightly from 4.2 percent in 1996 to 5.1 percent 12 years later.
The most pronounced rise was in older children aged 13 to 18, however. In that group, use of ADHD drugs more than doubled -- from 2.3 percent in 1996 to 4.9 percent in 2008. Researchers said that reflects a greater understanding that kids often don't grow out of ADHD and that symptoms can persist through adolescence and even adulthood.
Overall, about 2.8 million children received a prescription for an ADHD medication in 2008, according to the study.
"This study documents that the use of stimulants has been increasing gradually, but not as much as it increased between 1987 and 1996," when prescriptions jumped by an average of 17 percent annually, noted study co-author Dr. Benedetto Vitiello, a psychiatrist and researcher at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. "Much of the increase is due to the fact that more adolescents are taking the drug than before."
Despite worries about "overmedicated" children, the rate of use of ADHD drugs in preschoolers aged 5 and younger actually fell during the study period, from about 3 in 1,000 in 1996 to 1 in 1,000 in 2008, the findings revealed.
"There was a lot of concern about increasing use of this medication in very young children, but it doesn't seem to be supported by the data, and in any case is very, very low," Vitiello said.
Dr. Andrew Adesman is an ADHD expert and chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven and Alexa
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