The aim of this study was to analyse whether the global trend in drug prescriptions for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), as observed during the last years and often criticized as medicalization, have remained stable or shifted.
This observational study was based on a secondary analysis of data from a large German database including patients with an ADHD diagnosis between 2008 and 2018. Prescription data comprised all important ADHD drugs.
A total of 620 practices delivered data from a total of 77,504 patients (31% of them females) with a diagnosis of AHDH. Nearly 38% (29,396/77,504) of all patients received, at least, one prescription for an ADHS medicine between 2008 and 2018. The number of patients receiving a drug steadily increased annually until 2012 and then slowly fell, but unevenly distributed across the age groups. While the number of younger patients ( ≤ 16 years) receiving a prescription fell by 24% and the defined daily doses (DDDs) remained stable, the number of patients between 17 and 24 years receiving a prescription increased by 113% and the DDDs by 150%. Respectively, the number of older adults (≥ 25 years) with a prescription increased by 355% and the DDDs by 515%. Nearly one-third of older adults received an ADHD medicine only once.
The ever-increasing prescription of ADHD medicines stopped some years ago for children. ADHS and its pharmacological management are increasingly observed among older adolescents and adults, with a different pattern of drug persistence compared with children.