HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) among children is rising rapidly nationwide, according to doctors. An estimated 6.4 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, leading to the rise of medical treatment like the popular drug, Adderall.
A new study from the Nationwide Children's Hospital sheds a light on the rising number of calls the U.S. Poison Control Centers get on children unintentionally and intentionally exposed to ADHD medications.
Researchers hope the new study released will raise awareness of the benefits of safe storage and the need for alternative treatment solutions.
The recent study looked at the calls to Poison Control over a span of 14 years, from 2000 to 2014. It shows the call volume increased by about 60 percent, citing an average of around 29 calls a day regarding kids and teens improperly exposed to ADHD drugs like Adderall, Concerta and Ritalin.
The study shows most of the calls were kids under 12 accidentally taking a wrong dosage or getting hands on medications that weren't stored correctly.
However, almost a quarter of calls were for teens intentionally abusing or misusing the pills. Experts say this could be because these types of drugs are known to make you feel more focused and perform better at school. They say teens usually don't know even just one extra dose could result in an overdose.
Regional Medical Director for Doctors Care Dr. Dennis Rhoades said it's important to note this was a very under-reported problem. He said the study only used data from Poison Control and there are many other places that get calls about ADHD medication overdoses.
Which begs the question: Has your child been properly diagnosed?
"That's the one thing that I really stress with adults who bring in their children, and say you know, I believe my child has ADD… get them on a medication so that they can do well in school. Well a problem in school isn't always attention, it could be a behavioral problem, it could be a learning disability, and medication isn't always the right choice. You need to get to a licensed professional, preferably a psychiatrist, preferably an adolescent or a child pediatrician that's a psychiatrist to get properly diagnosed," said Rhoades.
It's commonly referred to as the "smart pill," prescription stimulants associated to keeping better focus, attention and productivity. But just because it makes you feel like you're doing better and just because you can get it, should you?
Dr. Rhoades said taking more than you're prescribed can give you a cumulative effect over a period of time, and side effects can be fast heart rates, irritability and seizures, just to name a few.
He said a reason why a recent report showed ADHD medications as the most prescribed drug in our state could be because we simply don't have enough specialists, like child psychiatrists, in the Grand Strand to receive the proper diagnosis. Not only is the proper diagnosis necessary, but so is the right medication because all drugs affect people differently.
Dr. Rhoades said he sees a societal issue because parents often want their children to be their best, leading them to seek medication first as a solution, but that may not be the case for everyone.
"Our thrust as parents is to make sure our children are successful. Well we're starting to realize, not everyone needs a pill. Maybe we need to do behavior modification, maybe we need special teaching in math because that's where their problem is. They're doing great in English, but they're not doing so great in math. Do you need a pill just for math? No, you maybe need a tutor. So, I see the pendulum, maybe not right away, but hopefully soon start to swing the other way… where it's like well, we really don't need to give everyone those medications," said Rhoades.
Dr. Rhoades recommends if you or your loved ones ever run into a situation of an overdose, to call Poison Control as a first step.
"Most parents don't want to think that their child has a learning disability and they're going to need special help. Isn't it much easier to say, 'oh they have ADD, let me give them a pill.' And that's where I think our society is failing parents, it's not a bad thing to have a learning disability, it's not a bad thing to have a behavioral issue, this is one of the wrong thinking's that we have in society and we have to make it a right thinking problem… that just because your child is acting out, let's get them the proper help, let's get them diagnosed properly, and that's so important with anything in medicine," said Rhoades.