Changes in use of psychostimulant medication for ADHD in South Australia (1990-2006)

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2009 Apr;43(4):340-7. doi: 10.1080/00048670902721129.


Objective: The aim of the present study was to undertake a retrospective analysis of archival data on psychostimulant prescriptions from South Australia for the periods 1990-2000 and 2001-2006 for 7849 youths aged from birth to 18 years.

Method: A person-based data set was used to assess: (i) rate of new prescriptions by age group; (ii) demographic characteristics (age of psychostimulant start, male: female ratio); (iii) duration of psychostimulant use; and (iv) geographic variation in psychostimulant prescription.

Results: Four major findings were observed: (i) the rate of new prescriptions was highly variable both for 1990-2000 and 2000-2006; (ii) demographic characteristics such as start age and male:female ratio declined over both periods; (iii) the duration of psychostimulant use was approximately 2.5 years for 1990-2000 and 2.0 years for 2000-2006; and (iv) there was geographic variation in both periods with a significant correlation between socioeconomic status and prescription rate per region.

Conclusions: The patterns of psychostimulant use in Australia closely parallel the USA. Physicians' prescribing practice may be extremely volatile. Duration of psychostimulant treatment should receive increased attention. There is pronounced geographic variability in prescription rates, which may be related to socioeconomic status.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Therapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • South Australia / epidemiology


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants