From Our 2010 Archives
Most Kids With ADHD Take Medication
84% of Kids With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Take Drugs to Treat the Condition
Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD
July 20, 2010 -- More than 80% of children who are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder take prescription medications at some point to treat their symptoms, according to a new nationwide survey of parents by Consumer Reports Health.
Among the survey's major findings:
Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted an online survey in July-August 2009 of 934 parents of children under 18 who had been diagnosed with ADHD. Treatment findings come from 785 reports of youths who had visited a professional for ADHD treatment within the past 12 months, and 676 children whose parents said they had tried medication within the past three years.
The high percentage of parents who reported that their kids had taken medications doesn't mean that's what helps children the most or makes parents happiest, because 44% said they wished there were another way to help their children.
Medication Side Effects
Consumer Reports' experts write that although medications can help children concentrate, feel calmer, and think before acting, side effects can be a problem. Side affects reported most often were decreased appetite, sleep problems, weight loss, upset stomach, and irritability.
The survey finds that 35% of parents believe that drugs help most when it comes to improving academic performance and behavior at school. It finds that 26% think medications helped their kids with social relationships and 18% say it improved their self-esteem.
Other findings from the survey of parents:
The Consumer Reports Health special report says two classes of drugs are available for treatment of ADHD:
Michael Goldstein, MD, a child neurologist with Western Neurological Associates in Salt Lake City and a former vice president of the American Academy of Neurology, is quoted as saying that there are no definitive comparison studies to show which medications work best in specific circumstances.
"We asked parents to rate how helpful each medication was in the following areas: academic performance, behavior at school, behavior at home, self-esteem, and social relationships," the authors write. "Both amphetamines and methylphenidates were equally likely to be helpful in all areas with the exception of behavior at school, where amphetamines were rated as slightly more helpful."
Tips for Parents
Consumer Reports Health offers these tips for monitoring medications.
The report also says that although drugs can help treat ADHD, medications can also be used for purposes other than those for which they are intended.
Consumer Reports' medical advisor, Orly Avitzur, MD, says students and professionals sometimes are seeking out drugs to help them improve work or test performance.
SOURCES: News release, Consumer Reports Health.