The study -- which was based on the number of ADHD prescription claims filed in 2005 for more than 107,000 children aged 5 to 19, and their parents -- found that in half the cases in which a parent and child both started taking ADHD drugs, the parent did so first.
Dr. Thomas E. Brown, associate director of the Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders, says that normally children start taking the drugs first, followed by the parents.
The study also found that in 60 percent of cases, mothers were taking the drugs more than fathers in households where a parent and a child both started taking the drugs for the first time, though the disorder is two to three times more common in men than women. Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children's Hospital in New Hyde Park, NY, claims more women are taking the drugs now because they are being examined for attention deficit problems more.
Seven percent of children taking ADHD drugs also had a parent using the drugs, the study found. The average age parents started taking ADHD drugs was 43, and the average age for kids was 13. Medco did a study last year that found that between 2000 and 2004, ADHD drug use rose twice as fast among adults than children, and growth rates were much higher for women than men.
Brown claims recent increases in use of the drugs are because parents are less likely to be put off by heavily publicized negative side effects such as heart trouble, insomnia and nervous tics if they see the medication work. Critics of the drugs -- which often belong to the amphetamine family -- say shady direct-to-consumer drug advertisements are largely to blame for the idea that ADHD is an inherited, family disorder.
"That the ADHD drug pushing industry is now targeting entire families with chemical treatment for a fictitious disease is an outrage," says Mike Adams, a critic of overmedicating children. "They claim this so-called disease runs in families, and yet they cannot produce a single shred of evidence from any medical test showing that the condition is really a disease at all."