The Korea Herald


Seoul sees 64% jump in teens seeking ADHD medication from 2021-2023: data

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : July 10, 2024 - 15:21

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The number of teenagers seeking medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is growing markedly in Seoul and other major cities, government data shows.

There were a total of 17,230 teens seeking ADHD treatment in the capital last year, up 64.3 percent from two years ago when the figure stood at 10,489.

Rep. Kim Dae-sik of the ruling People Power Party, which obtained the data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency and the National Health Insurance Service, said this increase could be largely influenced by the recognition of methylphenidate, the active ingredient in ADHD medications, as a "concentration-enhancing drug."

"Although urgent prescriptions for ADHD patients are necessary, they should not be misused due to the anxiety of parents and students (trying to improve school performance)," Kim said in a statement after revealing the data.

This data reflects an increase in teenagers reporting ADHD symptoms during medical consultation, which may or may not lead to prescription of related drugs. It does not necessarily indicate that the cases result in a diagnosis of the disorder.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s data shows that the number of teenagers actually prescribed methylphenidate across the country increased by 26.1 percent, from 68,288 in 2021 to 86,086 last year.

The Drug Ministry cautioned that misuse of methylphenidate can lead to side effects such as headaches and anxiety, and in rare cases, hallucinations, delusions, or even suicide attempts.

Outside Seoul, other major cities are also reporting similar trends, data shows.

Between 2021 and 2023, the number of teenagers seeking hospital treatment for ADHD in Busan rose by 56.3 percent, from 3,888 to 6,076, and in Daegu, the increase was 66.6 percent.

ADHD is characterized by a short attention span, excessive activity and difficulty controlling behavior, often leading to poor school performance. Symptoms include not paying attention in class, boredom with school assignments, continuous movement, distraction and yelling out inappropriate comments.