In less than a decade, the number of adolescents in the United States prescribed stimulants to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increased by half a million, according to a new study.

In 1996, 2.4 percent of children were being prescribed ADHD medicine, but by 2008, that percentage rose to 3.5, equaling 500,000 kids. A previous study showed that from 1987 to 1997, stimulant medication usage by children with ADHD rose from 0.6 percent to 2.7 percent.

Children between the ages of 6 and 12 were marked with the highest use of stimulants, with 5.1 percent of them being prescribed these ADHD medications in 2008.

“In the past, ADHD was primarily a concern of children in elementary school and middle school,” said study researcher Benedetto Vitiello. “This continuous increase among teens likely reflects a recent realization that ADHD often persists as children age. They do not always grow out of their symptoms.”

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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