TDAH diagnosis and treatment in kids continue to climb

NeurobDuring an 8-year period, an estimated 2 million more children in the United States were diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research shows.

A study led by investigators at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that from 2003 to 2011, 6.4 million children in the United States, a total of 11% of 4- to 17-year-olds, were reported by their parents to have received a diagnosis of ADHD from a healthcare provider. This constitutes a 42% increase from the period 2003-2004 to 2011-2012.

In addition, more than 3.5 million children in the United States (6% of 4- to 17-year-olds) were reported by their parents to be taking medication for ADHD, a 28% increase from 2007-2008 to 2011-2012.

The report also shows that children are commonly being diagnosed at a young age, with half diagnosed by age 6 years. However, among children with more severe ADHD, 50% receive a diagnosis by age 4 years.

“This finding suggests that there are a large number of young children who could benefit from early initiation of behavior therapy, which is recommended as the first-line treatment for preschool children with ADHD,” lead author Susanna Visser said in a release.

The study was published online November 22 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Using data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health to estimate current prevalence rates of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis and treatment by healthcare providers, the researchers also found the following:

  • Seven in 10 children (69%) with a current diagnosis of ADHD were taking medication to treat the disorder.
  • Medication treatment is most common among children with more severe ADHD.
  • There is wide variation among states in terms of the percentage of their child population diagnosed and treated with medication for ADHD. The percentage of children with a history of ADHD diagnosis ranges from 15% in Arkansas and Kentucky to 4% in Nevada.”This finding raises concerns about whether these children and their families are receiving needed services,” Michael Lu, MD, MPH, senior administrator, Health Resources and Service Administration, said in a release.
  • J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. Published online November 22, 2013
  • The study results also revealed that nearly 1 in 5 children with ADHD did not receive mental health counseling or medication in 2011-2012 and that of this group, one third reportedly had moderate or severe ADHD.

Caroline Cassels, December 04, 2013

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