A new study has revealed a startling rise in medication errors among children taking medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Between 2000 and 2021, calls to US poison control centers regarding ADHD medication errors increased by 300%. In 2021 alone, over 7,600 poison control calls were made, affecting one child every 100 minutes. This is a significant increase from the 1,900 calls reported in 2000.
The study’s co-author, Natalie Rine, explained that the rise in medication errors is consistent with the increasing diagnosis of ADHD among children in the US over the past two decades. While 83% of the reported incidents did not require medical attention, 4% had severe medical outcomes, and 2% required admission to a hospital or critical care unit.
The poison control incidents primarily involved amphetamines like Adderall, which accounted for roughly half of the cases. Guanfacine was involved in 23% of the incidents, while methylphenidate (Ritalin) was involved in 15%. Notably, incidents involving guanfacine had a higher likelihood of resulting in serious medical outcomes compared to those involving amphetamines.
The age group most affected by these incidents was children between 6 and 12 years old, comprising 67% of the cases. Additionally, 76% of the incidents involved males, reflecting the higher rate of ADHD diagnosis in boys compared to girls.
Over half of the poison control calls were caused by accidental double-dosing of medication, while 13% were caused by someone inadvertently taking someone else’s medication. Another 13% were due to the wrong medication being administered.
In a separate study, it was discovered that 25% of middle and high school students misuse stimulants prescribed for ADHD. These findings highlight the need for increased patient and caregiver education, as well as the development of improved child-resistant medication packaging and tracking systems. Transitioning from pill bottles to unit-dose packaging, such as blister packs, may also aid in preventing medication errors by helping individuals remember whether a dose has been taken or given.
– “See How in Michigan, It’s Easier to Find a Vape Pen Than a Painkiller” (Wired)
– “The ADHD diaries” (Harvard Gazette)