As more children take Adderall and other meds for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, experts report a shocking increase in medication errors — many of which resulted in kids getting hospitalized.
Between 2000 and 2021, the number of calls to US poison control centers for children’s ADHD medication errors jumped 300%, according to a new study.
In 2021 alone, there were over 7,600 poison control calls involving ADHD meds for children and teenagers — affecting one child every 100 minutes — a stark increase from just 1,900 such calls in 2000.
“The increase in the reported number of medication errors is consistent with the findings of other studies reporting an increase in the diagnosis of ADHD among US children during the past two decades,” study co-author Natalie Rine, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said in a news release.
Of the reported incidents, about 83% of children and teens didn’t end up needing to see a doctor. However, 4% had a serious medical outcome and 2% were admitted to a hospital, a critical care unit or other healthcare facility.
Roughly half of the poison control incidents involved amphetamines such as Adderall and related compounds, 23% involved guanfacine and 15% involved methylphenidate (Ritalin).
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that poison center calls involving guanfacine were more likely to result in a serious medical outcome compared to those involving amphetamines or related compounds.
And 67% of the incidents involved children ages 6 to 12 years, while 76% involved males — probably because boys are three times more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than girls, according to Healthline.
Over the 20-year study, 54% of the poison control calls were caused by someone inadvertently taking or being given medication twice.
And a youth inadvertently taking or being given someone else’s medication resulted in 13% of the incidents. Another 13% of the calls were caused by the wrong medication being taken or given.
Other problems with ADHD meds were found in a recent University of Michigan study, which revealed that one in four middle and high school students are abusing stimulants prescribed for ADHD.
“Because ADHD medication errors are preventable, more attention should be given to patient and caregiver education and development of improved child-resistant medication dispensing and tracking systems,” said study author Dr. Gary A. Smith of Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
“Another strategy may be a transition from pill bottles to unit-dose packaging, like blister packs, which may aid in remembering whether a medication has already been taken or given,” Smith added.