Exposure to drugs for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has increased in the past year, according to a new study published May 21 in the journal Pediatrics.

The research looked at the number of calls made to U.S. poison control centers regarding unintentional and intentional intake of ADHD medications among children and adults. There is a 64 percent increase of those calls from 7,018 to 11,486 between 2000 and 2014.

"The finding that was most surprising was the proportion, and the severity, of the exposures among the adolescents that were due to intentional exposure. We had three deaths, and all three were in the teenage group," said Gary Smith, lead author and the director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Link Between ADHD Drugs And Gun Violence

About 82 percent of the 156,000 calls received by the poison control centers were unintentional exposures, while 18 percent were intentional. There were three deaths associated with the ADHD medications.

The results of the study came after National Rifle Association incoming president Oliver North claimed that the drug Ritalin caused the surge in gun violence among teenagers in the United States.

"Many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten. Now, I am certainly not a doctor, I'm a Marine, but I can see those kinds of things happening," North said in an interview.

The researchers noted an increase in the frequency of exposure to the ADHD medications by 71 percent between 2000 and 2011. A huge drop to 6.2 percent between 2011 and 2014 was noticeable, which Smith said could be a research focus in the future.

What Is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a neurobehavioral condition, where patients exhibit repeated patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. These behaviors usually interfere with an individual's areas of daily living or overall development.

ADHD is one of the most frequently diagnosed conditions among children. A 2017 study published in BMC Pediatrics showed that ADHD diagnoses have doubled to 14 percent from 6.8 percent in 2005.

The study investigated exposures to ADHD medications such as methylphenidate, amphetamine, atomoxetine, and modafinil. Exposure rates were high for methylphenidate (Ritalin) at 46 percent and amphetamine (Adderall) at 45 percent.

"The majority of calls involved children 12 years of age and younger; however, exposures with the most serious outcomes were intentional exposures among adolescents," wrote the study authors.

Smith's team recommended strategies to prevent ADHD drug exposures, including education to parents, caregivers, and adolescents. They advocated for safe storage of medications, the use of individual dose packaging, and nonpharmacologic interventions for the treatment and management of ADHD.

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