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Young Women the Fastest Growing Users of ADHD Meds

While young boys still dominate the Ritalin and Adderall market, adult women are very quickly catching up.

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By Bryan Le

03/14/14

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A new analysis of prescriptions from 2008 to 2012 found that ADHD medication use went up by 35 percent overall. While the top consumers of meds like Ritalin and Adderall remain boys aged 12 to 18, adults have seen the biggest increase in ADHD medication with a rise of 53 percent. And of that group, the biggest increase was seen in young women aged 19 to 25.

"ADHD is no longer just a childhood condition. Many of the children and adolescents who were diagnosed 10 years ago are now adults, and we know that about 1 in 3 kids carry ADHD with them into adulthood," said Dr. David Muzina, a psychiatrist and vice president of neuroscience at Express Scripts. "And there's been progressively more attention on ADHD in the public sphere. More adults recognize the symptoms: 'Oh, I'm not concentrating, I'm not focusing. Maybe I have ADHD.'"

While ADHD med use drops off after men turn 18, the number of women of the same age using the drugs has spiked. In 2012, four percent of young women were on ADHD meds. "It's been known for a long, long time that if girls have ADHD they are more likely to have the inattention form, not the hyperactive, aggressive, disruptive form," said Muzina. "Perhaps that difference in how ADHD can look is why the diagnosis is missed in girls. They may be quietly suffering and having trouble in school, but they're not disruptive."

Women around that age are also starting to gain more responsibilities, including balancing work life and home responsibilities, typically more so than men. Muzina and his colleagues forecast that ADHD medication use will increase even further by 25 percent in the next five years.

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