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STUDY: ADHD Drug Use In Tennessee Among Highest

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- A study released by Express Scripts, a pharmaceutical management company, shows Tennessee and other southern states have among the highest attention disorder drug use in the country. 

3.6% of people in southern states use ADHD drugs compared to 2.9% nationally. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report in February of 2013, 4.79 percent of Tennessee children and adolescents between the age of 4-17 receive medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

South Carolina (5%) and Louisiana (4.7%) were the top two states in the country which had the highest proportion of residents using an ADHD medication. Tennessee averaged just below the southern average of 3.6% of residents using meds. 

Joseph Austerman, Section Head of Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Pediatric Behavioral Health says there are several factors believed to be driving the uptick in ADHD drug use in certain regions. They include a lack of access to behavioral specialists who can diagnose the disorder, schools which put a big emphasis on high stakes testing and places where schools and teachers are penalized for student's poor performance.  

Austerman also adds that many school systems lack the resources to address behavioral problems which makes them apt to label kids with ADHD. Ironically, there also seems to be a growing interest in ADHD drug use as an academic performance enhancer. Suburban communities had a higher prevalence of use compared to urban and rural areas. Austerman believes due to the intense competition among high school students trying to get into prestigious schools and gain scholarships, wealthier families look for an edge to give children in order to boost performance during standardized testing times. 

But ADHD medications don't come without risks says Dr. David J. Muzina, VP of Specialist Practice with Express Scripts. "The fact that so many children with ADHD are also being treated with antipsychotics is alarming. They should be treated as last resort therapies that are used only when other medications have been tried and failed. They can cause permanent neurological damage...antipsychotics can increase triglyceride and lipid levels and raise the risk of type 2 diabetes in children. 
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