Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not just a childhood condition, with many adults reporting that the hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention of the disorder can continue into adulthood. But a new report finds that many Canadian adults are finding it difficult to access the medications that can help manage their symptoms and bring them better quality of life.

As many as 50 per cent of kids diagnosed with ADHD still struggle with the condition as adults. Some untreated adults have trouble holding down jobs, go on impulsive shopping sprees, engage in risky behaviour, and have trouble maintaining personal relationships. The condition is also linked to depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and more.

While there’s been a greater recognition of adult ADHD in recent decades, there’s been little study on how many Canadian adults are taking medication for ADHD, nor on the drugs’ safety or efficacy in adults.

A new report by the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), and researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto finds that the number of prescriptions for ADHD medication has soared in recent years, but many adult patients are having trouble accessing the drugs.

The report found that between 2009 and 2014, the number of ADHD prescriptions for adults increased by 119 per cent. A total of 5.8 million prescriptions for these drugs were dispensed for adults in fiscal year 2013-2014 at a cost of $394.1 million.

The national average was 69 prescriptions dispensed per 1,000 eligible people, with the lowest rate of use in Manitoba, and the highest rate of use in Quebec.

But in many areas, long-acting stimulants are not available, or, are only available with special authorization, often because the drugs have the potential for inappropriate use.

As well, several provinces have placed age restrictions on stimulant drugs so that those over age 18 or 25 cannot access them. That’s despite a lack of evidence that the drugs aren’t effective in adulthood.

The researchers found that both stimulants and non-stimulants improved ADHD symptoms and quality of life in adults. But they also noted there is also little clinical data on the long-term safety of these drugs in older adults or in people with additional health conditions.

“Overall, our report recommends that these medications should be available for adults to treat ADHD, with no evidence to support imposing age restrictions,” said the report’s lead researcher and ICES scientist Tara Gomes, in a statement.

“However, we also recommend that more research should be undertaken to better understand the effects of these medications as a person ages, particularly on cardiovascular health. Additionally, health care practitioners should remain vigilant about the potential risks of misuse of these medications.”