Young women have increased their use of ADHD medication more than any other group in the U.S., according to the most current and comprehensive analysis of these medications.
Express Scripts — a pharmacy benefit management company — released a study Wednesday of prescriptions filled from 2008 to 2012 that found ADHD medication use climbed 84 percent among women ages 26 to 34. The research drew from a sample of some 15 million privately insured individuals under the age of 65.
Overall, the number of Americans who use medication to treat ADHD rose by 36 percent, topping 4.8 million privately insured individuals in 2012. Children are still the primary users of the medication, but use among adults has been increasing at a much greater speed.
Women outnumber men in their use of stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, a reversal of childhood trends where half as many girls as boys take ADHD medication.
In an interview with NPR, Dr. David Muzina — Express Scripts’ Vice President of Specialist Practice — said the spike in young women’s use of ADHD medication results from the women’s tendency to display the “inattentive form” of the disorder, rather than the “hyperactive, aggressive, disruptive form.”
Muzina said that women may turn to these medications amid the stress of multiplying demands.
“We all know that women in the United States are increasingly juggling more and more and more,” said Muzina. “Women still tend to have the majority of the responsibilities at home, particularly when families start up.”
That rise in pressure, he explained, may produce ADHD-like symptoms, or cause symptoms of previously undiagnosed ADHD to surface.