Overmedicating patients in America has been a concern for decades, but a rise in filled prescriptions doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prescription rates for ADHD increased “by 700 percent among women aged 25–29, and by 560 percent among women aged 30–34” between 2003 to 2015, the New York Times reports, and it turns out, experts aren’t necessarily worried about this.
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While these numbers may seem shocking, experts believe the reason behind this rise—not just the surprising stat—is what’s actually important. The study, which consisted of more than 4 million women with private health insurance that were tracked over a dozen years, notes their participants’ prescriptions for medications like Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse. However, the study does not take into account the diagnoses of these women prescribed the medication, making the results look like a classic case of doctors overmedicating their patients.
However, it turns out that while the reasons behind the rise in ADHD prescriptions in women are varied (yes, this could be partially due to people opting for this medication to boost their focus in the workplace), one of the more probable reasons is because there’s a new diagnostic criteria for the disorder. So, women who may have had the disorder but had been previously overlooked by a physician are finally getting the treatment they need.
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“The good news is that adult women are finally getting diagnosed,” Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who’s an expert on ADHD, told USA Today.
“Roughly 5 percent of the adult population is considered to have ADHD, so the increase among women suggests a rightsizing rather than over diagnosis,” adds Dr. Patricia Quinn, a developmental pediatrician who specializes in ADHD. “We’re kind of catching up now.”
However, even though experts seem to think the increase in prescriptions for ADHD is a good thing, don’t run out to be tested for ADHD just yet if you’re trying to get pregnant. It’s important to note that the women in this study were of childbearing age, and unfortunately there has been very little information about how these medications can affect a pregnancy. Knowing this, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and to speak to your doctor about possible side effects before starting any kind of new medication.
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