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Doctors have grown especially lax in prescribing stimulants over the past 15 or 20 years, often giving them to children who perform normally without the drug. (Higgins, 2009) Even before the new DSM-5 made ADHD easier to diagnose, doctors were already on track to prescribe enough stimulants each year for every American man, woman and child to receive the equivalent of 130 mg of amphetamine (or about 40 five-mg pills of Adderall) and an even greater amount of Ritalin, a similar drug. (Cohen & Rasmussen, 2013)

Writing two years later, pediatrician Lawrence Diller describes a situation that had grown even worse: “According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, in 2013 U.S. manufacturers of prescription stimulant drugs produced 211 tons of legal speed. This translates to more than two dozen 20 mg Adderall pills for every U.S. man, woman and child. While our country makes up less than 4.5% of the world’s population, it produces 70% of its amphetamines.” (Diller, 2015) Here are some other statistics on the use (and misuse) of ADHD medications:

  1. As of 2011 about 2.7 million children were being prescribed medicines for ADHD, mostly to help control impulsive behavior and an inability to focus and pay attention. More than 1.5 million adults also take the drugs. (Corbett-Dooren & Winslow, 2011)

  1. Some 49.1 million prescriptions for ADHD drugs (including Adderall and Ritalin) were written in the U.S. in 2010, up 21% from 2008. Most of these drugs were for children and teens, though 46% of prescriptions in 2010 were for people aged 20 and above, up from 42% two years earlier. (ibid)

  1. An estimated 9% of boys and 4% of girls are taking stimulants for ADHD. (Higgins, 2009)

  1. $7.9 billion was spent on ADHD medications in the U.S. in 2011, up 17% from 2010. (Scientific American Mind, Jan./Feb. 2013, p. 14)

  1. Only 60% of children given a stimulant have an actual diagnosis of ADHD. (Debarr et al., 2003)

Use of these drugs is now being encouraged through adulthood, which is only increasing the amount of stimulants being consumed. So what, exactly, are we getting for all this drug use by our nation’s youth? The upcoming sections will explore this question.

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