Recent Trends in Stimulant Usage

J Atten Disord. 2016 Jun;20(6):471-7. doi: 10.1177/1087054715605915. Epub 2015 Oct 20.


Objective: In the last decade, dramatic changes have occurred in stimulant medication prevalence and in patterns of stimulant treatment. The resultant trends merit analysis.

Method: Usage patterns of stimulant medication, specifically amphetamine and methylphenidate, were analyzed for trends. The data were obtained from datasets including pharmacy claims, aggregate production quotas, bulk distribution to counties, pharmacy prescription sales, parent surveys, and physician visit surveys. Stimulant medication trends were organized by drug subclass, year, age group, gender, country, prescriber specialty, diagnosis, and expenditures.

Results: Major recent trends are as follows: amphetamine medication usage has prominently surpassed methylphenidate, total stimulant prescription sales to adults have surpassed those for youth, and more adult women are prescribed stimulants than adult men.

Conclusion: Stimulant medication treatment-particularly of amphetamines-is rapidly expanding in the United States. Off-label use is reported to be at least 40% of total use and appears to be more common in adults. (J. of Att. Dis. 2016; 20(6) 471-477).

Keywords: adults; amphetamine; children; medication trends; methylphenidate; stimulant.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Amphetamines / economics
  • Amphetamines / therapeutic use
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / economics
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / economics
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Drug Prescriptions / economics
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures / trends
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / economics
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use
  • Off-Label Use / economics
  • Off-Label Use / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / economics
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Amphetamines
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methylphenidate