TEEN HEALTH Published April2, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

First National Study on the Use of Treatments for ADHD Released

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Children playing at a camp for kids with ADHD.
(Photo : Brendan Smialowski, Getty Images)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published the first national study to look at the use of behavioral therapy, medications, and dietary supplements to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

It found that only half of children aged 4 to 17 with ADHD were receiving behavioral therapy between 2009 and 2011. About 40% of children with ADHD were treated with medication alone, 10% received behavioral therapy alone, 30% were treated with both medication and behavioral therapy, and 10% received neither medication nor behavioral therapy. Overall, about 10% of children with ADHD took dietary supplements for their condition. 

The study also found that 1 in 2 preschoolers ages 4 to 5 who had ADHD received behavioral therapy and about 1 in 2 were taking medication for ADHD. Almost 1 in 4 preschoolers were being treated with medication alone.  Among children with ADHD aged 6 to 17, fewer than 1 in 3 received both medication and behavioral therapy.

The report collected data leading up to 2011, which is when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued clinical guidelines for treating ADHD. The guidelines recommend behavioral therapy alone for treating preschoolers and a combination of medication and behavioral therapy for children aged 6 to 17. 

"The good news is that we now have strong clinical guidelines to support the more than 5 million children living with ADHD." Said Dr. Susanna Visser, an epidemiologist with the CDC and the lead author of the report.

There was significant geographic variation in how children with ADHD were treated. On average, states with higher behavioral therapy rates had lower medication treatment rates and vice versa. Rates of medication treatment among children with ADHD ranged from a low of 57% in California to a high of 88% in Michigan. Rates of behavioral therapy among children with ADHD ranged from a low of 33% in Tennessee to 61% in Hawaii.

The study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics and can be read online at http://www.jpeds.com/pb/assets/raw/Health%20Advance/journals/ympd/Visser.pdf.

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