Young hands on a chalkboard spelling ADHD
Pregnancy & Kids Care Print

New ADHD Drug: Cause for Concern or Long-Awaited Lifesaver?

If your child needs medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), he might soon have a new option. Approved by the FDA in January, Adzenys XR-ODT is a new orange-flavored, melt-in-your-mouth amphetamine for patients 6 years old and older.1 With chemical similarities to Adderall, Adzenys provides extended-release medication and comes in six dose strengths. It also brings with it a whirlwind of controversy.

Why some are concerned

Concerned psychiatrists argue that making amphetamines in a candy-like flavor could trigger a gateway into ADHD drug abuse, and it could also contribute to a trend of overmedicating children. Plus, some fear the increased exchange of the drug on the black market.

ADHD medications stimulate the central nervous system and affect chemicals in the brain associated with impulse control. These types of drugs vastly improve the lives of many children affected by ADHD. But, say many psychiatrists, there are a rapidly increasing number of children diagnosed with ADHD who are being medicated — a number they fear will increase even more with the availability of Adzenys.

The prevalence of children aged 4-17 years taking ADHD medication has already increased from 4.8% in 2007 to 6.1% in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).2

Some psychiatrists also worry that turning an amphetamine into something resembling candy will lead to the danger of kids liking the taste enough to help themselves to more.

On top of that, there is a common trend of misuse of ADHD medication among teenagers, as pills are often taken as a “party drug” or to enhance athletic performance. Some worry that the tasty, dissolvable attributes of the new drug will enable its abuse.

The upside to this potentially magic little pill

On the other side of the debate is the belief that the drug could have a positive benefit to millions of families. As many parents well know, persuading a child to take medicine can be a major challenge. Adzenys is the first extended-release drug for ADHD that is orally dissolvable, and it’s the first to come in a blister pack rather than a pill bottle. For parents on the go, this is a portable and convenient option. And the dissolvability provides parents with an easy solution for the child who hates swallowing pills. What’s more, Adzenys calls for only a once-daily dosing: another bonus for parents of stubborn medicine takers.

According to the CDC, approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. ADHD can cause problems with school performance, social interactions and ability to maintain friendships. For families of these children, having an easier way to manage the symptoms of ADHD could be a game-changer.

As far as the misuse of Adzenys goes, many believe that the extended release nature of the drug will actually make it less attractive. Adzenys provides a steady dose of medication all day long rather than an immediate high. In other words, dissolving the medication does not activate it. Those who abuse the drug are focused on the effects of the drug, making the new tasty, dissolvable format irrelevant.