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Young Kids with ADHD May Benefit Little From Drug Therapy

Young Kids with ADHD May Benefit Little From Drug Therapy  A massive federally funded multi-center study finds that many young children diagnosed with moderate to severe attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder continue to struggle for years — despite drug treatment.

Investigators at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center report that nine out of 10 young children with moderate to severe attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) continue to experience serious, often severe symptoms and impairment long after their original diagnoses and, in many cases, despite treatment.

The study, published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, is the largest long-term analysis to date of preschoolers with ADHD. Researchers say the investigation sheds much-needed light on the natural course of a condition that is being diagnosed at an increasingly earlier age.

“ADHD is becoming a more common diagnosis in early childhood, so understanding how the disorder progresses in this age group is critical,” says lead investigator Mark Riddle, M.D., a pediatric psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

“We found that ADHD in preschoolers is a chronic and rather persistent condition, one that requires better long-term behavioral and pharmacological treatments than we currently have.”

The study shows that nearly 90 percent of the 186 youngsters followed continued to struggle with ADHD symptoms six years after diagnosis.

Children taking ADHD medication had just as severe symptoms as those who were medication-free, the study found.

Children with ADHD, ages 3 to 5, were enrolled in the study, treated for several months, after which they were referred to community pediatricians for ongoing care.

Over the next six years, the researchers used detailed reports from parents and teachers to track the children’s behavior, school performance and the frequency and severity of three of ADHD’s hallmark symptoms—inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The children also had full diagnostic workups by the study’s clinicians at the beginning, halfway through and at the end of the research.

Symptom severity scores did not differ significantly between the more than two-thirds of children on medication and those off medication, the study showed.

Specifically, 62 percent of children taking anti-ADHD drugs had clinically significant hyperactivity and impulsivity, compared with 58 percent of those not taking medicines. And 65 percent of children on medication had clinically significant inattention, compared with 62 percent of their medication-free counterparts.

The investigators caution that it remains unclear whether the lack of medication effectiveness was due to suboptimal drug choice or dosage, poor adherence, medication ineffectiveness per se or some other reason.

“Our study was not designed to answer these questions, but whatever the reason may be, it is worrisome that children with ADHD, even when treated with medication, continue to experience symptoms, and what we need to find out is why that is and how we can do better,” Riddle says.

Children who had oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder in addition to ADHD were 30 percent more likely to experience persistent ADHD symptoms six years after diagnosis, compared with children whose sole diagnosis was ADHD.

ADHD is considered a neurobehavioral condition and is marked by inability to concentrate, restlessness, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. It can have profound and long-lasting effects on a child’s intellectual and emotional development.

The condition can impair learning, academic performance, peer and family relationships and even physical safety. Past research has also found that children with ADHD are at higher risk for injuries and hospitalizations.

More than 7 percent of U.S. children are currently treated for ADHD, the investigators say. The annual economic burden of the condition is estimated to be between $36 billion and $52 billion, according to researchers.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Boy misbehaving at school photo by shutterstock.

Young Kids with ADHD May Benefit Little From Drug Therapy

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Young Kids with ADHD May Benefit Little From Drug Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2013/02/12/young-kids-with-adhd-may-benefit-little-from-drug-therapy/51511.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.