ADHD med use spikes - driven by older users

The long-term effects of Ritalin and similar medication are still unclear (Getty)
The long-term effects of Ritalin and similar medication are still unclear (Getty)

Increased awareness of ADHD symptoms is behind a spike in use of drugs like Ritalin amongst over-50s, experts believe.

New figures from Government drug-buying agency Pharmac show use has tripled in Northland since 2013.

"Psychiatrists are far more accepting - and it took a long time for this to happen - that ADHD can exist in adulthood because of long-term studies that were done," Dr Julia Rucklidge, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Canterbury, told the Northern Advocate.

Only a minority of kids diagnosed with the condition see their symptoms persist into adulthood. Many older people who go on Ritalin or Rubifen take themselves to the doctor after noticing they have similar symptoms to their children, the paper reported.

Overall, prescriptions for the two drugs - both based on methylphenidate hydrochloride - has risen 26 percent in the region since 2013. In Whanganui, use rose 52 percent from 2013 to 206, the Wanganui Chronicle reported on Thursday, with that expected to rise further in 2017.

Whanganui Hospital clinical director of paediatrics David Montgomery said the figures seemed way too high.

"I would be very, very surprised if our prescribing... has actually gone up more than 50 percent. That really doesn't sound at all likely," he told the Chronicle.

"I think it's probably an error."

The long-term effects of Ritalin and similar medication are still unclear, and there is concern an over-reliance on drugs is putting parents off adopting behaviour modification strategies.

"If you're accepting that a medication is necessary for your child to behave well, then you are more likely to attribute their behaviour to a biological cause," Dr Rucklidge told the Advocate.

"This means parents may neglect implementing behavioural management strategies because that would be suggesting there are environmental contributing factors."

Newshub has contacted Pharmac for more detail on the figures behind the reports.

Newshub.

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