Accidental use of ADHD medications by children skyrockets

A recent study has found that calls to poison control centers due to ADHD drug exposure has soared.

Calls to U.S. poison control centers for exposure to drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has soared by 64 percent, a recent study found. According to CNN, the rate of exposure to ADHD medications that resulted in calls to poison control centers coincides with a dramatic increase in ADHD diagnoses among children. While ADHD drugs are widely prescribed, overexposure to them can cause numerous dangerous health effects, including vomiting, tremors, increased heart rate, seizures, high blood pressure, and death.

Calls to poison control centers increase

The researchers of the study looked at data gathered from U.S. poison control centers covering a 15-year period from 2000 to 2014. They found that calls related to both intentional and unintentional exposure to ADHD drugs increased 64 percent from 7,018 in 2000 to 11,486 in 2014. The study looked only at calls concerning children and adolescents who were under 19.

The researchers found that 82 percent of all the calls were for unintentional exposure, such as children taking the wrong dosage or taking drugs that were not prescribed for them. Unintentional exposure was most common in young children.

Intentional exposure, on the other hand, mostly included suicide attempts and were most common among teenagers. While intentional exposures were less common than unintentional exposures, they also tended to be more serious. Three deaths were recorded as having occurred because of ADHD medication exposure and all of those deaths involved teenagers.

Doctors and pharmacies play a role

The increase in calls to poison control centers is not entirely surprising given the dramatic rise in diagnoses of ADHD among children. Diagnoses of ADHD have doubled between 2005 and 2014. In 2005, just 6.8 percent of U.S. children were diagnosed with ADHD, whereas by 2015 that figure had risen to 14 percent.

Doctors and pharmacists have a role to play in reducing medication errors that occur at home. As Reuters reports, a previous study has found that parents who are responsible for giving their children medication often don't understand how to administer that medication properly. The study found that 38 percent of parents didn't know what the right medicine dosage was and 42 percent didn't know how often their children needed to take their medication.

Clearer instructions by both doctors and pharmacists, including receiving verbal confirmation from parents that they understand how to give their children any prescribed medication, along with better written dosage instructions and easier to understand labels, could help reduce medication errors in children.

Medical malpractice law

While some medical errors that occur at home are simply unfortunate accidents, others are the result of parents being given unclear or incorrect instructions about how to give their children medication. If a medication error has occurred because a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist gave erroneous instructions, it may be time to talk to a medical malpractice attorney. An attorney can help parents understand what legal options they have available to them and whether they can claim compensation for their family's ordeal.