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Drug abuse

Narcotics monitoring board reports 66% increase in global consumption of methylphenidate

The global consumption of methylphenidate, a central nervous system stimulant used for the treatment of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, increased by 66% in 2013

Source: ZUMA Press, Inc / Alamy

Methylphenidate is primarily used for the treatment of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder in young people

The global consumption of methylphenidate, a central nervous system stimulant primarily used for the treatment of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), increased by 66% in 2013 to 2.4 billion doses, compared with the year before, a report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says.

The rise in consumption may be attributable to the increasing number of patients diagnosed with ADHD, a widening of the age group of patients likely to be prescribed treatment, misdiagnosis of ADHD, and a lack of adequate prescription guidelines for the stimulant, the INCB report for 2014 says.

Other likely factors cited by the report, which was published on 3 March 2015, include a growing supply of the stimulant, marketing practices by pharmaceutical companies, and pressure from parent associations advocating for their children’s right to have access to ADHD medication.

The INCB says the United States continues to account for more than 80% of global consumption of methylphenidate. Use has also expanded in other countries such as Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Australia, among others.

In the United States in 2011, “about 11% of young people between the ages of four and 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD”, says the report, and notes that in Australia, two-year-old children are increasingly being prescribed medication containing methylphenidate.

The report warns that over-prescribing of medicines containing methylphenidate may fuel illegal activities such as trafficking and abuse, particularly in school settings. 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20068042

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