Sharp increase in number of girls taking ADHD medication

The number of children and adolescents treated with Rilatine for ADHD has risen by 20 per cent in 10 years. This is a "dramatic" increase, Luc Van Gorp of the Christian Health Insurance (CM) told Het Nieuwsblad on Tuesday. The number of girls taking the medication has increased particularly sharply, by 42 per cent.

A new CM study shows that one in 40 children and adolescents in Belgium were prescribed methylphenidate - under the brand name Rilatine - or a similar drug in 2022. This is 20 per cent more than in 2013. It is still mainly boys who are most often prescribed medication for ADHD, but the number of girls has risen much faster.

Those who are prescribed the drug often take it for a very long time. Half of all users take it for more than eight years, and one in four six-year-olds continue to take it until they are 17. They may take it for even longer, but after the age of 18 the cost is no longer reimbursed by health insurance funds, so there are no statistics.

Side effects

"Our study shows that there is something wrong with the way ADHD is treated with medication," says CM, pointing out that the drugs have side effects such as decreased appetite and worse sleep, and little is known about the long-term effects.

"Our study shows that there is something wrong with the way ADHD is treated with medication"

In 2021, the Belgian Supreme Council of Health (SHC) said that non-drug therapies are either not available or not sufficiently available in Belgium. It also said that alternative treatments such as relaxation techniques, neurofeedback, computerised cognitive training, exercise therapy and special diets did not have enough scientific evidence to be recommended. The SHC therefore issued a formal opinion calling for the reimbursement of medication used to treat ADHD for everyone, not just children.



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