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More kids in Finland using ADHD medication

According to national Current Care Guidelines, medication is an important part of ADHD treatment.

Lääkepaketteja.
Medication used to treat ADHD symptoms. Image: Mikko Koski / Yle

The use of medication to treat ADHD in children is becoming more widespread, according to a new study by the University of Turku and national benefits agency Kela (the Finnish Social Insurance Institute). ADHD is an acronym for Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Researchers found that more than 20,000 youngsters between the ages of six and 17 received medical insurance compensation for ADHD medication in 2018.

The research also suggested that the use of medication was more prevalent among boys than girls. According to the data, 4.4 percent of young boys used ADHD medication, while 4.2 percent of older boys had prescriptions. The corresponding figures for young girls and older girls was one percent and 1.3 percent respectively.

"The prevalence of ADHD medication [usage] among boys was nearly equal to the occurence of ADHD symptoms. In spite of a narrowing gender difference, the use of ADHD medication is still clearly more commonplace among boys than amng girls," Turku University Collegium researcher Miikka Vuori said in a statement.

Finland's Current Care Guidelines, which are provided based on independent, clinical-based guidelines, said that medication is an important part of ADHD treatment.

Drug treatment growing slowest in Finland

The gender difference in the use of ADHD medication in children is larger in Finland than in other countries.

According to the study, this means that diagnoses of ADHD symptoms in boys and their referrals for treatment are already quite common. However in girls, the symptoms are more likely to remain undiagnosed.

"We definitely need additional research into the use of ADHD medications as well as anti-psychotics and anti-depressants by children and young adults. We know that the use of anti-psychotics among adolescent girls is becoming quite widespread, for example," Kela research head Leena Saastamoinen noted.

The research highlighted the importance of time of birth in patients' referral for treatment. In 2018, five percent of six-to-12-year-old boys born between September and December were more frequently referred more often for medical treatment than boys born between January and April (four percent).

The corresponding figures for girls were 1.2 percent and 0.8 percent respectively, indicating that the relative difference with regard to month of birth was larger than among boys of the same age.

The study found that Finland trailed other Nordic countries in terms of the prescription of ADHD medication.

The latest results suggest that the growing trend toward medication has not leveled off, as is the case in Denmark and Norway.

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