Are Stimulants Overprescribed? Treatment of ADHD in Four U.S. Communities

NIMH, Bethesda, MD 20892-9669, USA.
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 7.26). 08/1999; 38(7):797-804. DOI: 10.1097/00004583-199907000-00008
Source: PubMed


To address rising concerns about the possible overdiagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and overtreatment with stimulants. To date, almost no studies have examined ADHD in unbiased community-based studies, ascertaining both the prevalence of the diagnosis within nonreferred populations and the extent to which various treatments (i.e., stimulant medication, mental health treatments, and educational interventions) are used.
As a part of the Methods for the Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders (MECA) Study, the authors examined epidemiological survey data obtained from 1,285 children and their parents across 4 U.S. communities. Analyses examined the frequency of children's ADHD diagnosis, the extent to which medications were prescribed, as well as the provision of other services (e.g., psychosocial treatments, school-based educational interventions).
Findings indicated that 5.1% of children met full DSM-III-RADHD criteria across the pooled sample. Only 12.5% of children meeting ADHD criteria had been treated with stimulants during the previous 12 months. Some children who had been prescribed stimulants did not meet full ADHD diagnostic criteria, but these children manifested high levels of ADHD symptoms, suggesting that the medication had been appropriately prescribed. Children with ADHD were generally more likely to receive mental health counseling and/or school-based interventions than medication.
Medication treatments are often not used in treating ADHD children identified in the community, suggesting the need for better education of parents, physicians, and mental health professionals about the effectiveness of these treatments. On the basis of these data it cannot be concluded that substantial "overtreatment" with stimulants is occurring across communities in general.

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    • "Similar rates have been found in Australia, with 28 % of children with ADHD receiving some sort of service in the past 6 months and 18.3 % taking a type of medication (Sawyer et al. 2004). Jensen et al. (1999) concluded that in the USA, only 46 % of children with ADHD who needed medication, 32 % of children with ADHD who needed counselling, and 26.5 % of families who needed help with their child's behaviour problems had received the intervention they needed. Lack of treatment is in part related to the fact that families and children do not always act on treatment recommendations . "
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    ABSTRACT: A number of evidence-based treatments are available for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including pharmacological, psychosocial, or a combination of the two treatments. For a significant number of children diagnosed with ADHD, however, these treatments are not utilized or adhered to for the recommended time period. Given that adherence to treatment regimens is necessary for reducing the symptoms of ADHD, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive understanding of why adherence rates are so low. The current review examines the literature to date that has directly explored utilization and adherence issues related to the treatment of ADHD in order to identify the key barriers to treatment. This review focused on four main factors that could account for the poor rates of treatment utilization and adherence: personal characteristics (socio-demographic characteristics and diagnostic issues), structural barriers, barriers related to the perception of ADHD, and barriers related to perceptions of treatment for ADHD. This review included 63 papers and covered a variety of barriers to treatment that have been found in research to have an impact on treatment adherence. Based on this review, we conclude that there are complex and interactive relationships among a variety of factors that influence treatment utilization and adherence. Four main gaps in the literature were identified: (1) there is limited information about barriers to psychosocial interventions, compared to pharmacological interventions; (2) there is a limited variety of research methodology being utilized; (3) treatment barrier knowledge is mostly from parents' perspectives; and (4) treatment utilization and treatment adherence are often studied jointly. Information from this review can help practitioners to identify potential barriers to their clients being adherent to treatment recommendations.
    ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders 07/2014; 7(1). DOI:10.1007/s12402-014-0152-z
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    • "The issue of over-prescribing of ADHD medicines was outside the remit of this study, as studies which have looked at this question have identified patients with an ADHD diagnosis who do and do not receive medication and/or psychological treatments, along with patients who receive medication but who do not meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD [30,31]. The detailed specialist records required to examine this are not routinely available for all patients on a general practice database such as THIN and so the current study cannot answer the question as to whether the stimulants (MPH, DEX and ATM) are over-prescribed. "
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    ABSTRACT: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by the symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. ADHD was once perceived as a condition of childhood only; however increasing evidence has highlighted the existence of ADHD in older adolescents and adults. Estimates for the prevalence of ADHD in adults range from 2.5-4%. Few data exist on the prescribing trends of the stimulants methylphenidate and dexamfetamine, and the non-stimulant atomoxetine in the UK. The aim of this study was to investigate the annual prevalence and incidence of pharmacologically treated ADHD in children, adolescents and adults in UK primary care. The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database was used to identify all patients aged over 6 years with a diagnosis of ADHD/hyperkinetic disorder and a prescription for methylphenidate, dexamfetamine or atomoxetine from 2003-2008. Annual prevalence and incidence of pharmacologically treated ADHD were calculated by age category and sex. The source population comprised 3,529,615 patients (48.9% male). A total of 118,929 prescriptions were recorded for the 4,530 patients in the pharmacologically treated ADHD cohort during the 6-year study. Prevalence (per 1000 persons in the mid-year THIN population) increased within each age category from 2003 to 2008 [6-12 years: from 4.8 (95% CI: 4.5-5.1) to 9.2 (95% CI: 8.8-9.6); 13-17 years: from 3.6 (95% CI: 3.3-3.9) to 7.4 (95% CI: 7.0-7.8); 18-24 years: from 0.3 (95% CI: 0.2-0.3) to 1.1 (95% CI: 1.0-1.3); 25-45 years: from 0.02 (95% CI: 0.01-0.03) to 0.08 (95% CI: 0.06-0.10); >45 years: from 0.01 (95% CI: 0.00-0.01) to 0.02 (95% CI: 0.01-0.03). Whilst male patients aged 6-12 years had the highest prevalence; the relative increase in prescribing was higher amongst female patients of the same age - the increase in prevalence in females aged 6-12 years was 2.1 fold compared to an increase of 1.9 fold for their male counterparts. Prevalence of treated ADHD decreased with increasing age. Incidence (per 1000 persons at risk in the mid-year THIN population) was highest for children aged 6-12 years. A trend of increasing prescribing prevalence of ADHD drug treatment was observed over the period 2003-2008. Prevalence of prescribing to adult patients increased; however the numbers treated are much lower than published estimates of the prevalence of ADHD. This study has added to the limited knowledge on ADHD prescribing in primary care, particularly in the area of drug treatment in adulthood.
    BMC Pediatrics 06/2012; 12(1):78. DOI:10.1186/1471-2431-12-78 · 1.93 Impact Factor
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    • "Although ADHD can be difficult to diagnose [8], [9], the use of prescription stimulants for its treatment has increased over the past decade [10]–[12], particularly of MPH [13]–[15]. The latter findings may increase the likelihood that individuals who do not meet ADHD criteria, are being exposed to stimulants [10], [16] and could lead to extensive MPH abuse. The documented abuse consists of 6–9% non-medical consumption by individuals who do not have ADHD [17], [18], and 14% secondary abuse by ADHD patients who use their prescriptions for over consumption [19]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) has been emerging as a world-wide psychiatric disorder. There appears to be an increasing rate of stimulant drug abuse, specifically methylphenidate (MPH) which is the most common treatment for ADHD, among individuals who do not meet the criteria for ADHD and particularly for cognitive enhancement among university students. However, the long term effects of exposure to MPH are unknown. Thus, in light of a developmental approach in humans, we aimed to test the effects of adolescence exposure to enriched environment (EE) followed by MPH administration during early adulthood, on reactions to stress in adulthood. Specifically, at approximate adolescence [post natal days (PND) 30-60] rats were reared in EE and were treated with MPH during early adulthood (PND 60-90). Adult (PND 90-92) rats were exposed to mild stress and starting at PND 110, the behavioral and endocrine effects of the combined drug and environmental conditions were assessed. Following adolescence EE, long term exposure to MPH led to decreased locomotor activity and increased sucrose preference. EE had a beneficial effect on PPI (attentive abilities), which was impaired by long term exposure to MPH. Finally, the interaction between EE and, exposure to MPH led to long-term elevated corticosterone and testosterone levels. In view of the marked increase in MPH consumption over the past decade, vigilance is crucial in order to prevent potential drug abuse and its long term detrimental consequences.
    PLoS ONE 07/2011; 6(7):e22059. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0022059 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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