The number of American children leaving doctors’ offices with an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis has risen 66 per cent in 10 years, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study. Over this same timeframe, specialists, instead of primary care physicians, have begun treating an increasing number of these young patients, the study found.
The study analysed ADHD trends from 2000 to 2010 among children under the age of 18 who were diagnosed and treated by office-based physicians. Researchers analysed changes in the diagnosis of ADHD and treatment of the disorder over this 10-year time period.
“ADHD is now a common diagnosis among children and teens,” said study leader Craig Garfield. “The magnitude and speed of this shift in one decade is likely due to an increased awareness of ADHD, which may have caused more physicians to recognise symptoms and diagnose the disorder.”
Symptoms of ADHD, such as trouble paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviours and being overly active, can affect children and teens both academically and socially, Garfield said.
In the past decade several important regulatory and clinical changes regarding ADHD and the medications used to treat it have occurred, yet it was unknown how these factors have affected ADHD management, Garfield said.
For the study, Garfield and his team of researchers quantified ADHD diagnosis and treatment patterns among people under 18 using the IMS Health National Disease and Therapeutic Index. This is a nationally representative sample of office-based visits and included 4,300 office-based physicians in 2010. According to the study, in 2010, 10.4 million children and teens under age 18 were diagnosed with ADHD at physician outpatient visits, versus 6.2 million in 2000.
Researchers also found that psycho stimulants have remained the most common medication prescribed to children with ADHD. Psycho stimulants were used in 96 per cent of treatments in 2000 and 87 per cent in 2010. The exact reason for the decrease is unclear, but there was not an increase in treatment with other, substitute medications, Garfield said.
While the majority of children and teens with ADHD are still managed by primary physicians, the study found that there has been a substantial shift away from primary doctors and towards specialists, such as paediatric psychiatrists.
REHACARE.de; Source: Northwestern University