The ADHD medication use rate was highest in kids aged 6 to 12. That makes sense, researchers said, because often ADHD symptoms become problematic when children enter school and struggle to stay focused.
The increase among adolescents may be among children who had ADHD but were able to get by through elementary school, but then struggled in higher grades, Vitiello suggested.
"There is more recognition that the disorder does not disappear with puberty," he said. "In adolescents, the symptoms become more evident because the academic demands increase. The tasks they have to do in school become more complex. Even though they were able to get by in elementary school and middle school, in high school they become more impaired because their attention is not what it should be."
The rate of ADHD prescriptions was significantly lower in the West than in other parts of the nation. Researchers aren't sure why. Two possible reasons could include more parents being reluctant to medicate their children, or school systems that handle kids with ADHD differently, Vitiello noted.
Experts estimate that about 60 percent of children with ADHD are treated with medication, Vitiello said, probably those with the most severe symptoms.
There's more on ADHD medications at KidsHealth.org.
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