Mar 30, 2023 - Health

ADHD drug prescriptions among adults soared in COVID's first year

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

ADHD med prescriptions for U.S. adults increased by more than 10% during the first year of COVID as telehealth's popularity and awareness of the condition grew, per a new government study.

Why it matters: The CDC’s report out Thursday is the latest insight into the “substantial spike” in demand for ADHD drugs, which has driven a months-long shortage linked to possible overprescribing.

Yes, but: Researchers say the reasons behind the surge are more complicated and could include widened access to care and the pandemic's mental health impact.

  • They also wrote that it points to an unrecognized public health need since ADHD is tied to higher suicide rates and health problems while being misunderstood among adults and women.
  • Women and older people with ADHD are also commonly under-identified and care for people in rural areas remains limited, meaning the jump in ADHD drug prescriptions could be late-identified cases, per the study.
  • Though researchers also acknowledged the potential for “inadequate ADHD evaluations and inappropriate stimulant prescribing” due to limited provider training and little research.

State of play: The pandemic-inspired policies allowing for telehealth dispensing of controlled substances like Adderall are already facing a federal crackdown to limit it with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s latest proposed rules.

  • The public comment period, which ends Friday, has spurred more than 26,000 statements — many in opposition to the DEA’s in-person prescribing requirement.
  • Others have written that the rules bring back the barriers to ADHD care that preventing them from seeking treatment earlier.
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