Document Type


Publication Date



Introduction: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common pediatric neurobehavioral disorders in the U.S. Stimulants, classified as controlled substances, are commonly used for ADHD management. We conducted an analysis of real-world stimulants dispensing data to evaluate the pandemic’s impact on young patients (≤ 26 years) in California.

Methods: Annual prevalence of patients on stimulants per capita across various California counties from 2019 and 2021 were analyzed and further compared across different years, sexes, and age groups. New patients initiating simulants therapy were also examined. A case study was conducted to determine the impact of socioeconomic status on patient prevalence within different quintiles in Los Angeles County using patient zip codes. Logistic regression analysis using R Project was employed to determine demographic factors associated with concurrent use of stimulants with other controlled substances.

Results: There was a notable reduction in prevalence of patients ≤26 years old on stimulants during and after the pandemic per 100,000 people (777 in 2019; 743 in 2020; 751 in 2021). These decreases were more evident among the elementary and adolescent age groups. The most prevalent age group on stimulants were adolescents (12–17 years) irrespective of the pandemic. A significant rise in the number of female patients using stimulants was observed, increasing from 107,957 (35.2%) in 2019 to 121,241 (41.1%) in 2021. New patients initiating stimulants rose from 102,754 in 2020 to 106,660 in 2021, with 33.2% being young adults. In Los Angeles County, there was an increasing trend in patient prevalence from Q1 to Q5 income quintiles among patients ≥6 years. Consistently each year, the highest average income quintile exhibited the highest per capita prevalence. Age was associated with higher risk of concurrent use of benzodiazepines (OR, 1.198 [95% CI, 1.195–1.201], p < 0.0001) and opioids (OR, 1.132 [95% CI, 1.130–1.134], p < 0.0001) with stimulants.

Discussion: Our study provides real-world information on dispensing of ADHD stimulants in California youth from 2019 to 2021. The results underscore the importance of optimizing evidence-based ADHD management in pediatric patients and young adults to mitigate disparities in the use of stimulants.


This article was originally published in Frontiers in Public Health, volume 12 , in 2024.

This scholarship is part of the Chapman University COVID-19 Archives.

Peer Reviewed



The authors

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.