Large increase in stimulant use for ADHD in Australia: new study

Parliament house flag post

Large increase in stimulant use for ADHD in Australia: new study

Posted 27/01/2011 by Luke Buckmaster

White tablet with CG 202 imprinted on itA new study has shown that between 2002 and 2009, dispensing of stimulant medication in Australia—the majority of which is thought to be for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)—has increased considerably.

The study, Australian national trends in stimulant dispensing: 2002-09, published in the Early Online edition of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (ANZJP), used data from the Department of Health and Ageing to report trends in dispensed stimulant prescriptions between 2002 and 2009 by gender and age.

The drugs examined were dexamphetamine, methylphenidate (brand names: Ritalin and Concerta) and modafinil (brand name: Modavigil).

According to the study, between 2002 and 2009:

  • there was an 87 per cent increase in stimulant dispensing in Australia
  • dexamphetamine remained the most commonly dispensed stimulant, though prescriptions fell by 13 per cent
  • the increase in stimulant dispensing was attributable to a 300 per cent increase in dispensed methylphenidate following inclusion of the short-acting preparations on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from 2005 and longer acting preparations from 2007
  • dispensing of stimulant prescriptions peaked at 10-14 years of age
  • the use of stimulants was approximately five times greater in men than in women, although the Australian rate of prevalence of ADHD is 2.45 times greater in men than women.
 In seeking to explain the 300 per cent increase in methylphenidate dispensing, the authors note that:

 Although the most likely explanation for the increase ... was government subsidy [through the PBS], increased prescribing for stimulants has also been reported in North America and Europe. We conjecture that this may be due to a number of factors including studies showing the effectiveness of stimulants for ADHD treatment, increased public awareness of ADHD, societal changes (for example children living in smaller housing, greater expectations of children to remain at school) and the influence of marketing by pharmaceutical companies.
The authors also hypothesise that the peaking of stimulant prescription at 10-14 years of age reflects changing expectations placed upon children at school, arguing that the increase coincided with ‘increasing cognitive demands in the school environment and increasing expectations from parents, teachers and perhaps the students themselves’.

A point worth highlighting is that increases in dispensing of stimulants have tended to be greater in some Australian jurisdictions than in others. As the authors note, studies have reported increased use of stimulants in children and in adults in Western Australia (WA) and New South Wales (NSW), while other states such as South Australia have shown no consistent change.

In a 2004 Parliamentary Library study, I examined the differences between Federal electorates in dispensing of dexamphetamine through the PBS and found considerable variation both across and within jurisdictions, with WA electorates accounting for the top 14 electorates for prescription of ADHD medication in Australia. I also found that the number of PBS dexamphetamine prescriptions in Western Australia in 2003 was around three and a half times higher per 1000 population than the Australian average and more than 12 times higher than the jurisdiction with the lowest number of prescriptions, the Northern Territory.

The ANZJP study does not provide jurisdictional comparisons. However, such comparisons can be made using PBS data available from the Medicare Australia website. The graph below shows all PBS prescriptions for stimulants (dexamphetamine, methylphenidate and modafinil) between 2002-03 and 2009-2010.
  PBS prescriptions dispensed for stimulant medication, states and territories, 2002-03 to 2009-10

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament elections climate change social security women welfare reform taxation Indigenous Australians Australian Defence Force welfare policy school education higher education private health insurance health financing emissions trading Middle East Senate Australian Bureau of Statistics employment people trafficking Asia statistics illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 Australian Public Service income management Medicare disability Sport United Nations environment industrial relations constitution transport politics criminal law Afghanistan health forced labour food public service reform aged care aid Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Carbon Pricing Mechanism dental health international relations governance regulation Fair Work Act voting law enforcement electoral reform OECD Australian Electoral Commission WADA child protection poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention 43rd Parliament slavery health system leadership domestic violence parliamentary procedure International Women's Day accountability defence capability multiculturalism ASADA Australian Federal Police labour force people smuggling debt New Zealand Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme political parties coal seam gas Human rights crime China Census election results UK Parliament Papua New Guinea banking corruption pensions children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment Youth Allowance sea farers United Kingdom energy food labelling Australian economy violence against women vocational education and training military history by-election High Court skilled migration mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations youth paid parental leave same sex relationships customs planning doping health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy ANZUS Rural and regional trade unions Foreign affairs election timetable Indigenous royal commission Productivity firearms public policy Population ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council forestry Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report social inclusion paternalism environmental law US presidential election nutrition ODA Defence sitting days electoral divisions Southeast Asia administrative law universities TAFE Ireland citizenship asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing water health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution Turkey Syria marine pollution sustainability prisons police deaths in custody electoral margins electoral pendulum electoral redistribution redistribution NSW redistribution WA redistribution ACT electoral boundaries ASEAN Sustainable Development Goals Double dissolution Senators safety vehicles MYEFO Pathology tertiary education Taiwan Xi Ma meeting family violence government financial advisers financial planners Financial System Inquiry Murray Inquiry China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top