Health Care

ADHD drugs saw pandemic surge, CDC analysis finds

Prescriptions for stimulants used primarily to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, as access to the drugs expanded via telehealth opportunities, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The CDC study found that the percentage of adult males, as well as adolescent and adult females with employer-sponsored insurance, who got prescription stimulants climbed between 2016 and 2021, with a particular increase noted in 2020-2021, the first year of the pandemic.

The percentage of females ages 5-64 with at least one stimulant prescription went up from 3.8 to 4.1 percent between 2020 and 2021, while the percentage among males of the same age went up from 4 to 4.2 percent. 

The percentage of females between ages 20 and 24 with at least one stimulant prescription went up from 5.2 to 6.2 percent between 2020 and 2021, the biggest change out of any age bracket in either sex group.

The analysis found, though, that stimulant prescriptions were most common among young boys, with 9.9 percent of boys ages 10 to 14 having at least one prescription in 2021. ADHD has long been most commonly identified in young boys, according to the CDC. 

The CDC report notes that pandemic-era policies expanded patients’ access to prescription stimulants via telehealth. The uptick in prescription stimulant fills now “raise questions about current adult ADHD care” and may merit more development on clinical recommendations for ADHD diagnoses and management in adults, as well as more evaluation of the benefits and harms of policies enacted during the pandemic, the research asserts.

The new research comes amid a shortage of Adderall, a drug commonly prescribed for ADHD, as announced by the Food and Drug Administration back in October.

Tags CDC Research

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