ADHD drug use increased during pandemic, according to study

Prescriptions for drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have seen a significant increase during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly among women and individuals aged 20 to 39, according to recent research conducted by scholars affiliated with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that prescriptions of ADHD medications rose 30 percent among people aged 20 to 39, and non-stimulant ADHD medications saw an increase of 81 percent.

The reasons behind this surge in prescriptions are not entirely clear, but the researchers suggest that pandemic-related stress, recognition of undiagnosed cases, over-prescription, and online marketing of medications could all be contributing factors. The study also highlighted the potential role of social media in promoting ADHD diagnoses and prescriptions, with platforms like TikTok featuring individuals openly discussing their own ADHD diagnoses.

However, experts have raised concerns about the potential for overdiagnosis and the misleading information shared on social media platforms. Some argue that the increase in prescriptions may be a result of self-diagnosis through online questionnaires and easier access to online prescriptions.

Despite these concerns, the study also suggests that social media platforms have helped raise awareness about untreated ADHD, particularly among women. Traditionally characterized as a "boy's disease," ADHD is now being recognized as a condition that affects individuals of all genders.

The research compared prescription rates for different classes of behavioral health medications and found that while prescriptions for benzodiazepines (used to treat anxiety) and buprenorphine (used to treat opiate-use disorder) declined during the pandemic, prescriptions for antidepressants remained consistent with pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, the study highlights the need to examine the appropriateness of ADHD prescriptions and the evolving marketing and prescribing practices. It also underscores the importance of rigorous diagnosis and the potential impact of social media on healthcare trends. As the pandemic continues to affect individuals' mental health, understanding the factors contributing to medication prescription patterns is crucial for providing appropriate and effective treatment.


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