The L.A. Times today did a great story on the rising use of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) drugs and how an increase in marketing in the last few years may have contributed to this.

The Times reports that back in 1971, 159 countries agreed to ban direct advertising of psychotropic medications, which include ADHD drugs. For decades, drug companies have stayed away from advertising these medications. But in 2001 one company broke away and started buying ads in a women’s magazine for an ADHD drug. And others acted quickly to get a piece of the profit pie.

Direct-to-parent marketing of ADHD drugs – most of which are stimulants – has grown pervasive over the past few years, despite a United Nations treaty banning most of it. Use of such medications increased by more than 60 percent from 2001 to 2005, according to the International Narcotics Control Board.

This month, ads for new ADHD drug Vyvanse appear in Women’s Day, Family Circle and Redbook. The (Orwellian?) Vyvanse ad states, “With consistant ADHD symptom control, your child’s unique talents and personality can shine through, even at 6pm.”

And besides the fact that these drugs can potentially be addictive, an FDA advisory committee last year found they may also cause serious heart problems and toxic reactions in some patients.

Just how many kids are taking these medications? Last year the Washington Post reported that 10% of 10 year old boys were taking an ADHD drug.

Children in the United States are 10 times more likely to take a stimulant medication for ADHD than are kids in Europe. In fairness, children in Europe also are somewhat less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD because of a stricter set of criteria. But that doesn’t nearly account for the difference in prescription rates. The United States, the only nation to violate the U.N. treaty, consumes about 85 percent of the stimulants manufactured for ADHD.

Are American kids just completely out of control compared to their European counterparts?..or could this be linked to the fact that direct advertising is not allowed on the other side of the Atlantic?