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Icelanders hold the world record in consumption of ADHD medication

By Staff

  • The answer to Icelandic happiness found? Icelanders consume more medication for various psychiatric conditions than the other Nordic nations. Photo/Stefán Karlsson

Icelanders consume more prescription sleeping pills, pain medication and medication for anxiety and depression per-capita, than the other Nordic nations. The Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV also reports that Icelanders consume more of the stimulant Methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin, than any nation in the world. Methylphenidate is prescribed to treat ADHD.

Ritalin use skyrockets
The use of Ritalin has skyrocketed in recent years in Iceland, growing by 233% between 2004 and 2014, and the number of adult users tripled between 2007 and 2014, going from 1,200 to 3,600. The Ministry of Health and the National University Hospital worry this suggests excessive use, and want to find ways to reduce the consumption of Methylphenidate.

According to RÚV experts have suggested several explanations for the high level of Methylphenidate in Iceland. Among them the argument that the high level of use does not suggest Icelanders are abusing the medication, but rather that Icelanders are further along than other nations when it comes to diagnosing ADHD, especially among adults, thus resulting in higher levels of use. Others have suggested the reason might be a shortage of other treatment options or that some doctors have too much faith in the medication, thus prescribing it excessively.

Did the Viking settlers of Iceland all have ADHD?
One psychiatrist who RÚV quoted suggested that perhaps ADHD was simply more common among Icelanders than other nations, thanks to “the overly impulsive having left Norway back in the day”, as RÚV puts it. According to this theory the Viking age emptied Scandinavia of people suffering from hyperactivity and attention deficit, drawing all these people to Iceland, thus leading to lower demand for medication to treat ADHD in Scandinavia and greater demand for such medication here in Iceland.

We at Iceland Magazine feel the need to add that while this theory sounds intriguing it remains to be proven.

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