Illustrated by Naomi Abel.
At any given moment, there are so many things happening in our peripheral vision. Take an office setting for example. We tend to have at least four browser windows open at once, there's the comings and goings of coworkers, and the occasional text/Instagram notification popping up on our phones. It's easy to get distracted. But, for some, the constant inability to focus is the result of a medical condition — like ADHD. As such, taking drugs to treat this disorder is continuously on the rise in the U.S. — and young women are the largest group filling prescriptions.
Express Scripts conducted an analysis reviewing 15 million people with private insurance. Between 2008 and 2012, it found that general use of ADHD drugs was up 35.5%, with adult use rising 53%. Dr. David Muzina, psychiatrist and national practice leader for neuroscience at Express Scripts explained to NPR the reasons for such a huge spike in adult usage. While young boys and men under 25 use ADHD medications at higher rates than women, after 25 things reverse, with women filling more ADHD scripts than men. According to Muzina, about one in three children carry ADHD with them into adulthood. On top of that, he says it's possible we're diagnosing — and treating — people who aren't actually suffering from the disorder.
So, what makes women more likely candidates? As Muzina notes, girls who have ADHD won't display the aggressive, disruptive behavior the way boys do. Rather, they're likely to silently struggle in school. Later on, these symptoms manifest themselves more acutely under social and academic pressures, leading women to turn to medical treatment when they reach adulthood. And, Muzina feels it's impossible to ignore the fact that when it comes to family and work, women simply juggle more. That additional stress can trigger a previously undiagnosed case of ADHD.
Muzina predicts that ADHD drug use will be up 25% in the next five years. For now, it's a good opportunity for us to reevaluate how we address our problems with stress and inattention. (NPR)