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Treating ADHD: Drugs or Therapy Work

Study Shows Improvement in ADHD Symptoms With Medication or Behavior Therapy
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 20, 2007 -- Three years after starting treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), children continue to experience improvement in their symptoms regardless of which treatment they use, a major follow-up study shows. But the advantage of medication, shown to be superior to other treatments in previous follow-ups, seems to wear off. And some improvement in symptoms may occur naturally, independently of treatment.

At the three-year follow-up mark, "the kids by and large had improved a great deal," says Peter S. Jensen, MD, author of one of four reports issued on the study. Called the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (MTA), the study first enrolled children with ADHD when they were ages 7 to 10. These reports, the third follow-up on the study, are published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).

But the news isn't all great. In a surprise finding, the effect of ADHD medications, initially shown to be superior to other treatments such as behavior therapy, was found to provide no better results at the three-year mark than the other approaches. And the risk of behavioral problems in ADHD children, including their tendency to experiment with drugs and alcohol and to display delinquent behavior, was found higher than in other children, which the researchers expected.

About 2 million U.S. children are diagnosed with ADHD, a condition in which children have trouble focusing on tasks, sitting still, and paying attention.

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