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New Surge in Women Taking ADHD Medication

A new study published by the Express Scripts Lab shows a 36% increase in adults diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The sharpest increase was amid women ages 26 to 34, which has shot up 85% between 2008 and 2012. Sales of drugs used to treat ADHD have risen to nearly $10 billion in 2012 according to data from IMS Health.

Typically more children take ADHD medication than adults and this is still the case. There are more juveniles being treated for the condition, especially boys age 12 to 19. The research indicates an average of 9% of teenage males to be on some type of ADHD medication.

The percentage of males being medicated for symptoms of ADHD drops dramatically after age 19 to 25. At this point, the number of women goes up significantly. After the age of 25 there are far more women on ADHD prescription drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin, Vyvanse and others.

Although the disorder occurs in both sexes, girls may not be diagnosed at a young age. Females tend to display more introverted symptoms such as day dreaming or trouble concentrating. This may explain why more women are medicating in adulthood after a relatively late-in-life diagnosis.

Others speculate women are using the stimulants to suppress the appetite and decrease hunger — signs of a developing eating disorder — or to handle the multitude of tasks matrons often juggle for work and family.

Researchers point out this sudden shift is of concern since there is little conclusive research on the long term effects of such medication on adults. There is a risk of prescription pill addiction associated with stimulants like Adderall. Serious interactions may occur in patients with heart conditions or bipolar disorder. However doctors generally consider ADHD medication to be safe for most patients.

Last December, the New York Times reported that sales of stimulant medication had increased five times since 1992, from $1.7 billion to over $9 billion. Adderall and similar medications are manufactured by a UK pharmaceutical company called Shire Products.