Study: Women and the State of Missouri Are Taking Lots of ADHD Meds These Days

Wikimedia/Sardaukar Blackfang
Vyvanse is one of several medications used for ADHD.
Express Scripts, a St. Louis-based medication prescription company, has released a report saying usage of ADHD meds have risen substantially over the past few years -- and it's adult women, not young boys, who have increased their pill popping the most.

The study looks at 400,000 pharmacy claims out of 15 million patients with ages ranging between 4 and 64. The time frame was 2008 through 2012. Overall, the number of Americans using ADHD medication rose 36 percent during those four years.

People of all ages are using ADHD medication in greater numbers, including children. But adults have seen a rise by 53.4 percent between 2008 to 2012, according to the study. And while male usage "plummets" after the age of 18, women between the ages of 19 and 25 actually increase their usage, with 4.5 percent of women in that age group taking ADHD medication versus 3.5 percent of women 18 and under.

ADHD usage decreases for women over time, but it remains higher than males' usage. Here's a chart from the study that compares female to male usage:

Express Scripts

Express Scripts offers several explanations for the increased usage among females. First, females are less likely than males to show signs of having an ADHD disorder while children, so they might not know they have it. As they get older, they notice symptoms and seek treatment.

See also: Got Drugs? St. Louis Officials Would Like Your Unwanted Prescription Medications

Other possible reasons include females being more likely to adhere to a prescribed medical plan, abusing ADHD meds to lose weight (because stimulants decrease appetite), and finally, according to Dr. Joseph Austerman of the Center for Pediatric Behavioral Health at Cleveland Clinic, simple coffee just not doing the trick.

"Another factor that has an appreciable effect in driving ADHD drug use, especially in career women, is the 'superwoman syndrome,'" Austerman says in the study. "For some women, stimulants may provide the extra energy and focus they need to perform at a high level both at home and on the job."

Click on the next page to read about Missouri's ADHD usage...

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Ray, more due diligence please?  Consider the following:

1. Express Scripts has no real expertise in ADHD research, diagnosis or treatment.  They dispense medications.

2. Express Scripts has no business speculating about why more women are seeking ADHD treatment, especially reasons such as to lose weight or to better multi-task.

3. Express Scripts only looked at 2.7% of their prescriptions!

If you really want to do good reporting on this issue take a look at what some of the real experts in ADHD have to says:

Your story does a disservice to the public. 

Jim Knoerle
Jim Knoerle

Sorry ladies hit everyone has quirks and personality faults just live with it


As an adult woman with ADHD I take some offense to the sentiment put forth by this article. For years (and still today) ADHD was mis/under-diagnosed in women on the assumption that it's a syndrome that hyper little boys suffer from but will grow out of. The fact of the matter is that women DO suffer greatly from ADHD in both their jobs and personal lives. I have endured the stigma and speculation of being a "drug seeker" by physicians, pharmacists, and the general public. I expect more of the RFT when speaking about this very real mental illness. While stimulant drugs have potential to be abused this type of rhetoric does nothing to help the situation and also further stigmatizes the indIviduals who struggle with ADHD every day.   

Patricia Powell
Patricia Powell

Because there are two many pill pushy docs that say "oh you have a personality disorder" here take a pill. If you don't have one they will create on for u. Mine was hormones and menopause.. Beware of misdiagnosis.

Courtney Ringle
Courtney Ringle

*Adderall.. (just sayin. im a pharm tech. its a force of habit)

Mike E. Moses
Mike E. Moses

Gotta start em young! Hey your 7 year old doesn't pay attention in school enough..he needs atterol.


Okay, there's a hell of a lot of editorializing going on in this article. ADHD sufferers are not "pill poppers." Women do not make their doctors prescribe them controlled substances because "coffee isn't doing it." This is a real illness, and the stigma will never go away if we keep painting ADHD sufferers as fakers and drug addicts.


This medication sucks when you know someone is addicted. People seem very selfish when they are on it

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