ADHD Medication Prescriptions Are Off The Charts -- Why? And Should We Be Worried?

The sales of ADHD prescription medication are increasing rapidly and are expected to grow by another 13 percent this year alone. According to IBIS World, a new report shows ADHD medication has skyrocketed since 2010, and will continue to grow at an annualized rate of 6 percent per year, bringing in $17.5 billion by the year 2020.

Mother Jones reported on the sharp increase in ADHD prescriptions, claiming that attention deficit hyperactive disorder is a huge business for pharmaceutical companies. And though the spike in medication sales is alarming, it isn't surprising to certain economic professionals like Richard Scheffler, a coauthor of the book The ADHD Explosion. Schleffer claims the boom in prescriptions is part of a larger global trend, as ADHD symptoms are recognized more and more often around the world. This is especially true of cultures with high expectations of success and academic achievement.

While the United States has one of the worst reputations for being both unhealthy and over-medicated, sales of ADHD medication have exploded most noticeably in China, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Medication is selling twice as fast as in the United States, according to a report Richard Scheffler wrote with psychology professor Stephen Hinshaw.

Source: IBISWorld
Source: IBISWorld

But in the United States, where ADHD symptoms have been recognized for years, the major cause of increasing medication sales came is the Affordable Care Act, recently passed by President Obama. The new legislation requires health insurance providers to insure a wider range of health-services, including behavioral disorders. Approximately 70 percent of children with ADHD symptoms are prescribed medication in the United States, which means a much larger percentage of kids with behavioral disorders can now afford to get the medication.

According to Healthcare Global, the jump in attention deficit hyperactive disorder diagnoses and prescriptions is something the global populous should be concerned about. As a result of the ACA covering so many behavioral disorders, attention deficit hyperactive disorder could end up being over-diagnosed, regardless of the severity of ADHD symptoms. This is especially a problem if an adult or child is misdiagnosed with the disorder, because the chemical components of the medicine (stimulants like amphetamine) can be useless or even harmful to the body.

"Where I get worried is if we continue to allow quick and dirty diagnoses," said Stephen Hinshaw. "Then I fear some of the increase is going to be based on people who don't really have symptoms of enough severity to meet ADHD. And then we are into trouble... How are most people in the United States diagnosed with ADHD? A 10 to 15 minute visit with a pediatrician or a general practitioner. That's it; there is no reimbursement for a long, careful, thorough assessment."

What do you think? Are we too quick to identify behavioral problems as ADHD symptoms?