US Children and Teens Have Been Unnecessarily Exposed to ADHD Drugs, Says New Study

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Over 60% of the US children and adolescents have been exposed to drugs that treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to a new study. The paper was published today in the journal Pediatrics, arguing that between 2000 and 2014 too many children were intentionally or unintentionally exposed to ADHD medications.

The number of calls increased from 7,018 in 2000 to 11,486 in 2014, which equals a 64% rise in such incidents. Exposure means ingestion, inhalation or absorption of unnecessary drugs.

One of the leading authors of the study is Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He stated that:

“During that 15 years, there was about a 60% increase in the number of individuals exposed and calls reported to poison control centers regarding these medications.”

Intentional Exposure Grew in Cases of Adolescents

Only 18% of the exposure to the drug was intentional, while the rest of 82% was nonintentional. Three of the exposures ended in death. Smith said that:

“The finding that was most surprising was the proportion, and the severity, of the exposures among the adolescents that were due to intentional exposure. We had three deaths, and all three were in the teenage group.”

The increase of the exposure could be because of the increase in diagnosis, said Smith. The drugs are effective in treating ADHD, but they are also great at giving a high, he added:

“These are stimulants, and they’re used by teens for various reasons. Students, for example, might take it to get through a final exam. But like other stimulants, they might also take it because it gives them a high.”

The researchers also compared the exposure among age groups. The children between 0 to 5 years were exposed unintentionally through exploring and ingesting by mistake. The group of 6-12 year-olds was exposed through therapeutic errors or through accidentally taking too many pills. Finally, 50% of the older group of 13-19 year-olds was intentionally overexposed to the treatment.

However, not all cases were reported to 991, according to researchers. They argue that not many college kids are going to do that after misusing the medications.

A way to prevent exposure would be to have parents store the medication properly and to dispose of them safely.

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.