Stimulant Medication Use in Children: A 12-Year Perspective

American Journal of Psychiatry, 10/05/2011

Zuvekas SH et al. – Overall, pediatric stimulant use has been slowly but steadily increasing since 1996, primarily as a result of greater use in adolescents. Use in preschoolers remains low and has declined over time. Important variations related to racial/ethnic background and geographic region persist, thus indicating a substantial heterogeneity in the approach to the treatment of ADHD in U.S. communities.

Methods

  • The 1996–2008 database of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a nationally representative annual survey of U.S. households, was analyzed for therapeutic stimulant use in children age 18 and younger.
  • The data for 1987 were also recalculated for reference.

Results

  • An estimated 3.5% (95% confidence interval=3.0–4.1) of U.S. children received stimulant medication in 2008, up from 2.4% in 1996.
  • Over the period 1996–2008, stimulant use increased consistently at an overall annual growth rate of 3.4%.
  • Use increased in adolescents (annual growth, 6.5%), but it did not significantly change in 6– to 12–year–olds, and it decreased in preschoolers.
  • Use remained higher in boys than in girls, and it remained consistently lower in the West than in other U.S. regions.
  • While differences by family income have disappeared over time, use of stimulants in ADHD treatment is significantly lower in racial/ethnic minorities.

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