Stimulants Help Students With ADHD
Drug Treatment Improves Long-Term School Success, Study Shows
Not Just Controlling Behavior
Nearly 2 million children in the United States have ADHD, but many children with the disorder remain undiagnosed and many more do not get treatment.
Barbaresi says the Mayo research offers some of the first evidence that treatment with stimulant medications can have a lasting impact on quality of life into adulthood.
The research appears in the August issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
“The criticism [of stimulant drugs] has been that we are treating children just to control behavior and other undesirable symptoms,” he says. “But these findings show a real impact in terms of life outcome.”
Pediatric psychologist Ronald Brown, PhD, of the Medical University of South Carolina, says it is clear that Ritalin and other stimulant drug treatments can positively affect school performance and other life outcomes in children with ADHD.
But he adds that too many health providers rely on drugs alone, ignoring other effective treatments like psychotherapy, special education, and behavioral interventions.
“Pediatricians have to treat many kids in a short period of time, so it is hard for them to provide any other type of treatment,” he says. “And many insurance companies don’t pay for additional services for children with ADHD.”
Brown chaired a recent American Psychological Association (APA) task force examining the use of drugs in children with mental disorders.
The group concluded that a combination of behavioral therapy and drug treatment can often be more effective than either treatment alone in the treatment of ADHD.
“The message to parents of children with ADHD is that there are treatments that work, and stimulants are just one of those treatments,” Brown says. “If parents don't feel comfortable with medication there are other options.”