New study finds no educational improvement in children using ADHD medications
A version of this commentary appeared in Bloomberg.com and iPolitics.ca
Over the past twenty years, mental disabilities have overtaken physical disabilities as the leading cause of activity limitations in children. Today, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is three times more likely than asthma to be contributing to childhood disability in the United States.
An often-difficult question for parents of children who suffer from ADHD is whether to put their child on either Ritalin or Adderall, the drugs most commonly used to treat ADHD and its features of hyper and impulsive behaviors. Increasingly, the answer for parents and physicians to this question is yes. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2011 more than 6% of children ages 4-17 in the United States were taking medication for ADHD.
For some children, Ritalin and Adderall are essential and life-changing options — but for many children the benefits are not as obvious. In a recent study, co-authored with Lauren Jones and published in the Journal of Health Economics, we examine the short and long-term effects of stimulants such as Ritalin on child outcomes. The study analyzes the 1997 drug insurance expansion in Quebec, Canada which significantly increased access to insurance for prescription medications, making them more affordable. Within a decade of this expansion, children in Quebec were using stimulants at twice the rate of children in the rest of Canada, and by 2007, 44 per cent of Canada’s ADHD prescriptions were being written in Quebec which has just over 20% of Canada’s population.
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Janet Currie is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Princeton University. Mark Stabile is Director, School of Public Policy and Professor, Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and an expert advisor with Evidencenetwork.ca.
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