NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 21, 2005

In yet another sign that parents and doctors are increasingly turning to prescription medications to solve childhood health and behavioral problems, says the New York Times:

  • The use of sleeping pills among children and very young adults rose 85 percent from 2000 to 2004
  • And about 15 percent of people under age 20 who received sleeping pills were also being given drugs to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, according to the study by Medco Health Solutions.
  • Sampling the claims data of more than 340,000 patients ages 10 to 19, researchers found that the number taking prescription sleep medications grew from 554 in 2000 to 1,032 in 2004.

The sample was a fraction of the more than 55 million Americans for whom Medco oversees drug plans. The company found that the older the person, the more likely they were to use sleeping pills.

  • Of those age 20 to 44, nearly 3 percent -- or 2.8 million people -- received prescriptions for sleep medicines in 2004, Medco found.
  • More than 5 percent of those age 45 to 64, or 3.3 million people, used the pills that year, while more than 6 percent of those age 65 and older, or more than 2.2 million people, took sleeping pills, according to Medco.

At every age, girls and women were more likely than boys and men to take sleeping pills. Among those 65 and older, for instance, roughly twice as many women as men got the drugs in 2004, Medco found.

Source: Gardner Harris, "Sleeping Pill Use by Youths Soars, Study Says," New York Times, October 19, 2005.

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