Massive spike in ADHD drug prescriptions in NZ not an issue to worry about, says expert

Despite a huge jump in the prescription of ADHD medication in New Zealand over the last few years, the drugs are not being over-used, says an expert in the field.

Dr Sarah Watson says population growth and culture change are likely responsible for a huge jump in ADHD med use in NZ. Source: Breakfast

In 2012, just over 137,000 people collected meds from pharmacies for ADHD.

By 2016, more than 196,000 were doing this, meaning over a five year period the number of people receiving ADHD stimulants had jumped by more than 40 per cent.

However, New Zealand ADHD association board member Dr Sarah Watson says this spike in ADHD prescriptions is more a reflection of population growth and destigmatisation of the condition within Kiwi culture.

"I think it probably reflects, number one, population growth. I think also it reflects our shifting culture," Dr Watson said.

"We've had a lot of destigmatisation campaigns in New Zealand and I think internationally.

She said in the past, "it wasn't so OK to go and get an assessment to work out what's going on with kids". 

"These days we're very much empowered to do what we can to support children, and with that, often when children do go and get an assessment their parents are like 'actually I experience a lot of those struggles'."

Dr Watson also pointed out the New Zealand statistics for ADHD prescription use were mirrored in the UK, and no where near the level of the US.

The concern that some parents are becoming over-anxious about their children having ADHD is also easily fixed, says Dr Watson.

"I think if you're worried you go and get it checked out, that's the best thing to do," she said.