Antibiotics and ADHD Drug Use in Kids
A recent study conducted by the FDA presented a good-news/huh?-news scenario about what drugs are given to children. As reported by Reuters Health, in the last decade, the number of drugs prescribed for minors in the U.S. has declined. That contrasts with the increase in drugs prescribed for adults.
Although antibiotics use fell significantly, the use of drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rose. The good news relates to antibiotics, whose decline, one hopes, indicates an increasing awareness that these drugs are regularly overused, a practice that encourages the growth of drug resistant microbes.
The huh? news concerns ADHD. The stimulants prescribed to treat it, such as Ritalin (methylphenidate), lead the pack for children’s drug use. From 2002 to 2010, the use of these meds grew by nearly half, which adds up to about 800,000 prescriptions per year. More than 4 million Ritalin prescriptions were filled in 2010.
One professional camp sees this growth as positive. Dr. Scott Benson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and spokesman for the American Psychiatric Association, told Reuters that the study results suggest “reduction in the stigma. It used to be, ‘You're a bad parent if you can't get your child to behave, and you're a doubly bad parent if you put them on medicine.'"
But Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral pediatrician, saw things differently. Pointing out that the U.S. is the clear world leader in the use of these drugs, he said, “You have to look at how our society handles school children's problems. It's clear that we rely much, much more on a pharmacological answer than other societies do. The medicine is overprescribed primarily, but under-prescribed for certain inner-city groups of children."
As we reported a few years ago, there have been questions about ADHD drugs for a long time, and the medical establishment’s prescribing habits for them.
The new study showed that, overall, 263 million prescriptions for minors were filled in 2010, down by 7 percent since 2002. Adult prescriptions in the same period increased by 11 percent. In addition to the decline in antibiotic prescriptions for children, there were notable decreases in prescriptions for allergy medicines, cough and cold drugs, painkillers and antidepressants. In addition to ADHD drugs, other increases were tallied for asthma medicine and birth control pills.
As Reuters noted, the FDA couldn’t explain the reasons behind the changes.
A new resource for parents interested in ADHD research and treatment options is available here from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
As always, when your doctor prescribes a drug for your child, ask:
- Why is this drug being prescribed?
- What are the potential side effects and risks?
- How long should it take to see results?
- What do you expect to happen if the child does not take the drug?
- Are there alternative treatments?
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