More adults were prescribed drugs for ADHD than children for the first time since figures have been collected, a report from NHS England shows.
In 2022/23 prescribing of medicines for ADHD increased by 32% in adults and 12% in children under the age of 17, the data shows.
Last year there were 233,000 patients in England prescribed medicines for ADHD – 120,000 of them adults, the annual report said.
But boys aged 10 to 14 remain the largest group across all age and gender groups at 20.3%.
It is the first time since 2015/16 that a greater number of adults have been recorded as being prescribed the drugs and reflects that their use has been rising more quickly in recent years in this group, it added.
Overall, 2.54 million ADHD items were prescribed in 2022/23, a 19.3% increase on the previous year. Rates have risen more rapidly since 2020, the analysis showed.
In May questions were raised about private clinic assessments for ADHD after a BBC investigation found patients were being diagnosed based on poor-quality online checks.
Patients regularly turn to private providers because of lengthy NHS waiting lists the programme found, which GPs said reflected what they were seeing in practice.
Professor Azeem Majeed, a GP professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London said he had seen growing requests for ADHD assessments at his practice in South London for all ages.
In fact, referral requests are so common he wrote a template referral letter to ensure all the correct information was included and the referral was not rejected.
GPs have repeatedly raised questions over shared-care arrangements for prescribing when it comes to ADHD.
‘The figures on the increase in the prescribing of drugs for ADHD won’t surprise GPs as we have seen a large increase in requests for ADHD assessments in recent years for both children and adults.
‘After diagnosis and initiation of drug treatment, responsibility for longer-term prescribing for people with ADHD usually falls on general practices.
‘The prescribing figures illustrate the need for NHS England to look at this area of care as currently referral requests, care pathways, waiting times and ongoing management are placing a lot of pressure on primary care teams as well as causing stress for patients.’
Key figures on ADHD in England
- 233,000 patients up from 107,000 in 2015/16
- 2.5 million drug items compared with 1.3 million in 2015/16
- Upward trend in prescribing continuing and accelerated in 2020
- Almost twice as many male patients with 10-14-year-old boys most common group
- 25% more patients in least deprived as most deprived area