US poison control centres have recorded a substantial increase in the intentional or unintentional exposure of children and adolescents to ADHD medication, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The study, carried out by researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP), analysed calls made to the nation’s 55 poison control centres from January 2000 through to December 2014. Poison centers provide poison expertise and treatment advice by phone.
They found that 156, 365 exposures related to ADHD medications were reported in 2014. This represents an increase of 71.2 per cent from 2000 to 2011, followed by a 6.2 per cent decrease from 2011 to 2014.
Three-quarters (76.0 per cent) of exposures involved children age 12 or younger. Exposure in this age group was typically due to accidentally accessing the medication, taking or being given the wrong dosage, or taking too much medication within the specified time frame.
In the case of 13- to 19-year-olds, however, intentional medication exposures (including suspected suicide and medication abuse and/or misuse) accounted for just over half (50.2 per cent) of exposures.
Overall, the majority of exposed individuals (60.4 per cent) did not receive health care facility treatment; however, 6.2 per cent were admitted to a hospital for medical treatment, and there were three deaths.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) website says that, ‘Annually, of all the calls to a poison center about a potential poisoning, more than 70 per cent of calls are managed on-site and outside of a health care facility, meaning that the caller got the help they needed over the phone and didn’t have to go to a hospital or a health care provider.’
The researchers point out that, ‘The increasing number and rate of reported ADHD medication exposures during the study period is consistent with increasing trends in ADHD diagnosis and medication prescribing’.
A 2017 study found that the prevalence of ADHD diagnoses in the US rose twofold from 6.8 per cent to 14.4 per cent between 2005 and 2014.
Gary A Smith, Director of CIRP and a senior study author, said:
Unintentional and intentional pediatric exposures to ADHD medications are an increasing problem in the US affecting children of all ages. And exposures associated with suspected suicide or medication abuse and misuse among adolescents is of particular concern, especially because these result more commonly in serious medical outcomes.
Strategies to prevent these exposures, he said, include education of parents, care-givers and adolescents; safe storage and disposal of medications; use of unit-dose packaging; and increased use of non-pharmacological interventions for ADHD.