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CDC study suggests that 1 in 10 children have ADHD

Posted Nov 27 2010 8:15am
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ADHD Diagnosis on the Rise


A recently released study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates a dramatic increase in the number of children labeled as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).   The new report has been the focus of commentary across the media.   The last study of this type indicated that as many as 7.8% of children (age 4-17) had, at one time or another, been diagnosed with ADHD (2003).   This most recent study, which focused on parental reporting of the diagnosis of ADHD, indicated that this rate had increased by a surprising large amount, 22%, to 9.5% of children ages 4-17 (2007).  1,2,3,4


It is now estimated that about one in ten school age children are currently diagnosed as having ADHD (5.4 million).   This is some one million more than was identified during the last study.   Also, about half of the children currently diagnosed as having ADHD were said to be on medication (some 2.7 million). 1


Also alarming was a reported increase in the diagnosis of ADHD among older teens (42%) and among Hispanic children (53%).   Clearly, these findings suggest some alteration in the pattern of the illness or in the manner of diagnosis. 1


Twelve states had marked increases in numbers of children diagnosed. However, they were geographically separated (such as New York, Louisiana, Virginia, Alabama).   Interestingly, these states with the highest increases were all in the east and south. 1


The new study, while indicating differences in rates of increase between various sub-groups, showed an increase in parent reported ADHD across all demographics.   Multiracial children and children on Medicaid were the groups with the highest reported rates of having been diagnosed with ADHD. 1


Clearly, there is much about ADHD we do not know or understand.   It is defined as a neurobehavioral developmental disorder.   ADHD children demonstrate attention problems and hyperactivity, with both key symptoms almost always occurring together.   What we do know is that the condition is more frequently diagnosed in boys (four times more commonly than girls), is the most common psychological/psychiatric diagnosis in children, effects as many as 5% of all children, up to 16% of school aged children, and persists in perhaps as many as 50% of adults who have the disorder.   We also know that low birth weight infants are at a much greater risk. 5


This most recent data points to confusion in explaining the reported increase.   Is it due to better diagnostic criteria being used? Is it due to greater parental and teacher awareness? Is it due to better overall pubic education and media exposure?   Are there environmental factors?   Some have pointed to a lack of certain fatty acids as a cause. An array of behavioral disorders from autism to ADHD has been blamed on various chemicals, pesticides, and vaccines. To date, a clear-cut cause based on genetics, environment, dietary factors or chemical exposure remains elusive. Lacking a clear-cut cause, treatment remains focused on symptomatic control.  1,5,6,7,8


Treatment is, of course, controversial with many opting for medications and others opting for combination of behavior modification and enhanced coping mechanism development. The use of medications while effective in up to 70% of children can be associated with dependence, drug tolerance, and side effects.   Both stimulants (such at the widely used Ritalin) and anti-psychotics have been used with success.   Interestingly, the mechanism of action of these drugs is directly opposite, which raises major questions as to the exact mode of action of these drugs in mitigating the symptoms of ADHD. 1,9,10


At this time, the key to treatment of this frustrating condition is parental awareness.   Early detection and diagnosis can lead to effective treatment for many, whether by means of behavioral therapy or medications. 10 


1. Increasing Prevalence of Parent-Reported Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Children --- United States, 2003 and 2007 - November 12, 2010 / 59(44);1439-1443 -


2. 1 in 10 US kids have ADHD; more awareness cited -


3. One Million More U.S. Kids Are Diagnosed With Attention Deficit -


4. CDC: Childhood ADHD rate rises 22 percent


5. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder -


6. Very Low Birthweight Children Have Long-Term Behavioral And Psychiatric Consequences -


7. ADDers Are More Likely to Have Fatty Acid Deficiencies -


8. Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder -


9. Treatment of Attention-Deficit–Hyperactivity Disorder -

10. ADHD Diagnosis on the Rise -





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