Health News

ADHD prescriptions jump 33% in a year

Women in their 20s and 30s drive record surge in ADHD prescriptions amid row over whether condition is being OVER-diagnosed

  • Adults with ADHD have now eclipsed children with the condition for the 1st time
  • READ MORE: I’m a doctor, here’s the questions I ask to see if an adult has ADHD

Women in their 20s and 30s have driven a record surge in prescriptions for ADHD drugs, official data revealed today. 

NHS statistics show more than 230,000 people in England are now taking meds to combat their inattentiveness and hyperactivity.

Prescription rates jumped by a fifth in a year, marking the biggest annual rise since modern records began in 2015. 

And, for the first time ever, more adults than children now get powerful drugs such as Ritalin to help them cope with the behavioural disorder. Over-18s only made up a third of all ADHD patients receiving drugs five years ago. 

Younger women saw the biggest annual increases, however, with rates jumping by 50 per cent among those aged 25-39.

Fascinating graphs show how ADHD prescriptions have risen over time, with the patient demographic shifting from children to adults with young women in particular now driving the increase 

The former Love Island star, Olivia Attwood, said she was ‘lucky’ to get a ADHD diagnoses. In a frank admission, Attwood, who appeared on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here in 2022, described it as a ‘state of being constantly overwhelmed’

Celebrities like Olivia Attwood sharing their own ADHD ordeals have contributed to the rise, experts say.

The Love Island star, 30, who shot to fame on ITV’s hit show in 2017, explained how the condition ’caused myself and people around me a lot of stress’ during her teens and early 20s ‘when it wasn’t managed’. 

Katie Price this week became the latest star to reveal she has been diagnosed with the condition. 

The TV personality, 45, described how it explains why she has never felt there would be ‘consequences’ for her actions. 

University College London’s Professor Joanna Moncrieff, a world-renowned expert in psychiatry, is certain that some people seek a diagnosis because they are inspired by celebrities touting the benefits of their diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural condition defined by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

It affects around five per cent of children in the US. Some 3.6 per cent of boys and 0.85 per cent of girls suffer in the UK. 

Symptoms typically appear at an early age and become more noticeable as a child grows. These can also include:

  • Constant fidgeting 
  • Poor concentration
  • Excessive movement or talking
  • Acting without thinking
  • Inability to deal with stress 
  • Little or no sense of danger 
  • Careless mistakes
  • Mood swings
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Difficulty organising tasks
  •  Continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
  • Inability to listen or carry out instructions 

Most cases are diagnosed between six and 12 years old. Adults can also suffer, but there is less research into this.

ADHD’s exact cause is unclear but is thought to involve genetic mutations that affect a person’s brain function and structure.

Premature babies and those with epilepsy or brain damage are more at risk. 

ADHD is also linked to anxiety, depression, insomnia, Tourette’s and epilepsy.  

There is no cure. 

A combination of medication and therapy is usually recommended to relieve symptoms and make day-to-day life easier. 

Source: NHS Choices 

‘Lots of people seem to want the diagnosis and be looking for it,’ Professor Moncrieff said.

But she warned that the criteria to get an ADHD diagnosis in adults has become ‘nebulous and elastic’ meaning many can match the symptoms. 

Experts have previously warned many issues that prompt an ADHD diagnosis — such as difficulty keeping attention at work, making mistakes, or being distracted easily —are things most people can answer ‘yes’ to. 

For women in particular, Professor Moncrieff added there was a heightened ‘cultural feeling of inadequacy’ where they felt they had to be highly successful in both their personal and professional lives. 

‘People are feeling insecure, inadequate and it speaks to work being more competitive, pressure on women in particular to be perfect mums as well as good employees,’ she said. 

‘They see medication as a potential solution or boost to their performance.’

Professor Philip Asherson, a psychiatrist of King’s College London, agreed that high ‘profile individuals’ were helping drive diagnoses, and therefore prescriptions up. 

But he added that the ‘huge’ disruption of the Covid pandemic to people’s lives may also explain the rapid surge in ADHD patients. 

‘I think the loss of routines… had a huge impact on challenging people with ADHD and is the main explanation for sudden rapid rise,’ he said.

However, Professor Asherson added that diagnostic rates for ADHD were ‘historically very low’ and that there was ‘a lot of catching up to do’.

Private clinics are also cashing in on the rise of people wanting an ADHD diagnosis, other experts say.

A damming BBC investigation earlier this year found patients are could get diagnosed with ADHD and offered powerful drugs rapid video call assessments with private clinics.

Women between the age of 30-34 had the biggest increase of any age group, at 59 per cent. 

This group was followed by women aged 25-29 (up 56 per cent) and 35-39 year old women (up 54 per cent).

Despite these cohorts seeing the biggest year-on-year growth, they are still dwarfed by boys aged 10-14, who account for almost a fifth of the total ADHD patients getting drugs. 

Ms Attwood rose to fame on ITV’s 2017 season of the reality TV show Love Island 

Breaking: Katie Price has revealed she has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and is receiving therapy to manage the condition

There have been concerns about rising cases of ADHD for years.  

Some experts, argue the rise may be down to people who missed out on a diagnosis as a kid finally having their condition spotted. 

It was only in 2008 that British experts even recognised that ADHD could also affect adults.

Before then, the condition was recognised as a childhood problem which kids slowly grew out of.

Four stimulant drugs are currently licensed in the UK for ADHD — methylphenidate, lisdexamfetamine, dexamfetamine and guanfacine.

These medications are stimulants intended to boost sufferers’ ability to concentrate and focus on completing tasks.

But they can also cause sleep disturbances, depressed mood and panic attacks.

Professor Moncrieff also said there ADHD medication carried plenty of risks, and we shouldn’t be giving people powerful stimulants without reason. 

‘They are stimulants, actual amphetamines or amphetamine-like substances, these are drugs that have been used recreationally for a long time,’ she said. 

‘We don’t have enough information about the long-term effects to be confident that they are safe, certainly in adults.’

Academics are still attempting to piece together how ADHD affects older people. 

READ MORE: I’m a doctor and here are the 12 questions I ask to determine whether an adult has ADHD  

ADHD affects around 5 per cent of children in the US with rates in the UK about 3.6 per cent in boys and 0.85 per cent of girls.

Most cases of the condition are diagnosed between six and 12 years old. 

But as many as one in 20 adults in Britain could have the condition, according to the charity the ADHD Foundation.

What exactly causes ADHD is unclear but it is thought to involve genetic mutations that affect a person’s brain function and structure.

Premature babies and those with epilepsy or brain damage are thought to be more at risk. 

ADHD is also linked to other conditions like anxiety, depression, insomnia, Tourette’s and epilepsy.  

There is no cure, but a combination of medication and therapy is usually recommended to relieve symptoms and make day-to-day life easier. 

Source: Read Full Article