ADHD Drugs Prescribed More Often Due to Broadening of the Conditions DefinitionNov 6, 2013
More and more people—especially children—are being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and thus beginning expensive, and potentially harmful, prescription drug treatments. A lot of those diagnoses aren’t even necessarily accurate, however.
According to a Reuters report this week, the raft of new ADHD diagnoses is costing the U.S. more than $500 million annually in medical costs and many of those people being put on prescription drugs to treat the condition would likely be better off without them. That’s because the definition of ADHD has widened to include more people.
Researchers at Bond University in Australia have found that the expanded definition of ADHD has led to many over-diagnoses and as a result, more people are being prescribed the expensive stimulant drugs meant to curb the symptoms of the condition.
The volume of people who’ve been diagnosed with ADHD recently, the study team notes, is working to devalue the seriousness of the condition in people with reason for genuine concern. The new study appears in the latest edition of British Medical Journal, according to the Reuters report.
Driving the flood of ADHD diagnoses is a change in the definition of the disease as presented in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Reuters notes after reviewing the study.
Since the study originated in Australia, researchers note that prescriptions for drugs used to treat ADHD—namely Ritalin and Adderall—have increased 73 percent between 2000 and 2011. There has been double the amount of ADHD-related prescriptions written in Great Britain for children from 2003 to 2008 and the number has increased fourfold for adults over that same time, the study notes.
In the U.S., the problem of over-diagnosing ADHD has led to more prescriptions for the drugs to treat it here, too. The trend to diagnose ADHD in adolescents in the U.S. was noted particularly by the Australian researchers.