CDC Releases Results from ADHD Study

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Pet Scan of a Normal Brain and an ADHD brain. From Zametkins et al. (1990)

A recent ADHD study conducted by the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities reached its conclusion, and the results were published online in the Journal of Attention Disorders[1].

This was one of the largest community based epidemiologic ADHD studies ever conducted in the USA. Its focus was to improve the understanding of children dealing with ADHD, and to lead to the best decisions being made pertaining to strategies of intervention. Researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center set out to discover how children with ADHD interact during play. These results were published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.[2] You can read the full report here.

The Study

Two diverse communities were involved in this study – one in Oklahoma and the other in South Carolina. It involved elementary teachers from two states and four school districts, and over 10,000 school-aged children suffering from ADHD. In total 855 families participated and were interviewed.

Summary of the Findings of the Study

ADHD frequency rates were at the upper end of previous community-based estimates of ADHD.  Based on the interviews conducted by researchers, the percentage of children between the ages of 5 and 13 who met the study’s definition was 10.6% in Oklahoma and 8.7% in South Carolina.

Numerous children being treated with ADHD medication did not actually meet the study’s definition for ADHD. The total percentage of children taking ADHD medication was 7.4% in Oklahoma, and 10.1% in South Carolina. Of those children taking ADHD medication, 28.3% in Oklahoma and 39.5% South Carolina met the case definition.

Some children who are prescribed ADHD medication and who do not meet the criteria of study criteria were likely treated appropriately; some may have been treated inappropriately. This suggests that:

  • A number of these children may have been correctly treated for ADHD, which resulted in a decrease in their symptoms. As a result, their level of impairment no longer met the study’s definition.
  • A number of children did not have adequate impairment and were therefore treated incorrectly with ADHD medications.

What this study reveals is that there needs to be consistent criteria determined and followed for the treatment of ADHD to ensure those that are in need of the medications receive these medications, and to ensure others are not incorrectly treated with ADHD medications. Parents, teachers, and physicians should use caution when prescribing ADHD medications, and not be too quick to prescribe drugs that are unnecessary. There can be many of the minor symptoms that resemble DHD but that are actually a result of other conditions.

About ADHD

The most common neurobehavioral disorder children experience is ADHD. It is generally diagnosed in children, and it often will last into adulthood. ADHD makes it difficult for children to interact socially and function in society. A national study conducted in 2007[2,3] found that 7.2% of school aged children in the United States had been diagnosed with ADHD. That equated to about 4.1 million children. That had significantly increased in the past decade, and this recent study proves that play is an important tool in the analysis of children with ADHD.

Summary on the Treatment of ADHD

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics revised their clinical ADHD guidelines to provide recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD [4] in children using information garnered from the research. It has been concluded that no one treatment is right for children diagnosed with ADHD and that generally the best treatment is a combination of behavior therapy and medication.

The study also makes it apparent that much more care must go into making the diagnosis of ADHD to ensure that children are receiving the appropriate diagnosis, and play is one tool that has proven to be very effective in the analysis of ADHD.

Sources:
1) Journal of Attention Disorders

2) Wolraich, M. L., McKeown, R. E., Visser, S. N., Bard, D., Cuffe, S. P., Neas, B., Geryk, L. L., Doffing, M., Bottai, M., Abramowitz, A.J., Beck, L., Holbrook J. R., Danielson, M. (2012). The Prevalence of ADHD: Its Diagnosis and Treatment in Four School Districts Across Two States. Journal of Attention Disorders, In Press.

3) Increasing Prevalence of Parent-Reported Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Children – United States, 2003 and 2007 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR); November 12, 2010 / 59(44);1439-1443.


4) ADHD: Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents; Subcommittee on Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder , Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management; Pediatrics peds.2011-2654; published ahead of print October 16, 2011, doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2654.