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ADHD in Children Health Center

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1 in 10 U.S. Kids Diagnosed With ADHD

But many children who get diagnosis may not really have the condition, experts say


The data showed that 15 percent of school-age boys and 7 percent of girls had received an ADHD diagnosis. Among teens aged 14 to 17, about 19 percent of boys and 10 percent of girls had been diagnosed with ADHD. About 10 percent of high school boys currently take ADHD medications, The Times reported.

ADHD diagnosis rates in states vary widely. For example, about 23 percent of school-age boys in Southern states -- such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee -- were diagnosed with ADHD, compared with fewer than 10 percent in Colorado and Nevada.

Historically, ADHD has been estimated to affect 3 percent to 7 percent of children. There is no definitive test for the disorder. Diagnosis is based on extensive interviews with children, parents and teachers, and ruling out other causes, The Times reported.

"These data highlight the importance of obtaining an accurate diagnosis of ADHD in children, adolescents and adults with ADHD. The diagnosis of ADHD needs to be established through careful clinical interview -- there are no shortcuts," said Dr. Lenard Adler, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine.

The rising rates of ADHD diagnosis and medication use are due to several factors, according to experts. Some doctors are too quick to diagnose any complaints about inattention as ADHD, drug company advertising emphasizes how medication can substantially improve a child's life, and some parents pressure doctors to do something about their children's bad behavior and poor grades.

For his part, Adler, who is also director of the adult ADHD program at NYU Langone Medical Center, pointed out the importance of treating actual ADHD.

"The consequences, if ADHD is present, but untreated in young adults, are significant in that the risk for substance abuse, cigarette smoking, motor vehicle accidents, divorce or separation and under-performance on the job or in school are substantially elevated," Adler said.

Appropriate treatment "can include medication and psychosocial treatments, and should be established in careful cooperation of the patient, family and physician," he added. "Stimulant medications can be highly effective treatments with appropriate monitoring for improvement of symptoms of ADHD and for potential side effects."

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