There was an almost 85% increase in the number of identified patients prescribed drugs for ADHD since 2017, according to new data.

And prescribing of medicines used in the treatment of ADHD rose by more than 6% at the end of last year, the latest NHS figures show.

In all 180,000 identified patients were prescribed at least one drug item in the ADHD category in October to December 2022 compared with 149,000 in the same quarter in 2021.

It continues a long steady increase in use of the medicines in recent years with steeper rises seen since 2021 where prescribing has shot up 19%.

The NHS Business Services Authority said there were 646,000 items prescribed in the CNS stimulants and drugs for ADHD category in October to December 2022.

This is a 6.28% increase on the previous quarter and a 69% increase since 2017/18, the figures show.

The figures on medicines used in mental health also showed small increases in antidepressant prescribing.

In the last three months of 2022, 22 million antidepressant items were prescribed to an estimated 6.6 million identified patients – 2.7% more than the same time in the previous year.

This continues the long-term trend for antidepressant prescribing, which has risen by 25% since 2017/18, the NHSBSA said.

Dr Lis Galloway, a GP in Surrey, said the figures matched what they were seeing in practice with patients often seeking out private healthcare for a diagnosis.

‘We are seeing a huge rise in private diagnosis of ADHD, which is great that neurodiversity is being recognised.’

But she added: ‘The safety and quality of prescribing and any arrangement on shared care has a lot of catching up to do sadly.

‘This is especially so for clinics that use nurse practitioners to diagnose and initiate treatment.

‘This is putting both patient’s health and the medicolegal responsibility of GPs at risk. Where private sector, patient and GP expectations are so different it is causing real conflict, with patients caught in the middle.’

She added that the medicines could be transformative to children and adults.

‘It’s hard to say no to prescribing outside guidance when there’s so much pressure to do so. We want to help people feel better, no one wants to see people in difficulty, either medically or financially.

‘Ultimately we must remember it’s the prescriber’s head on the block if things don’t go well, which they don’t always.’

This article first appeared on our sister publication, Pulse.