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US survey: 1 in 10 kids has ADHD,



ATLANTA (AP) -- A government survey says 1 in 10 U.S. children has ADHD, a sizable increase from a few years earlier that researchers think might be explained by growing awareness and better screening.

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, makes it hard for kids to pay attention and control impulsive behavior. It's often treated with drugs, behavioral therapy, or both.

The new study found that about two-thirds of the children who have ADHD are on medication.

The estimate comes from a survey released Wednesday that found an increase in ADHD of about 22 percent from 2003 to the most recent survey in 2007-08. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interviewed parents of children ages 4 through 17 in both studies.

In the latest survey, 9.5 percent said a doctor or health care provider had told them their child had ADHD. The earlier study found that fewer than 8 percent of kids had been diagnosed with it.

Researchers calculate about 5.4 million kids have been diagnosed with ADHD, which suggests that about 1 million more children have the disorder than a few years earlier.

Scientists don't have clear answers about why there was such a significant increase. Study lead author Susanna Visser of the CDC suggests greater awareness and stepped-up screening efforts as part of the explanation.

"Regardless of what's undergirding this, we know more parents are telling us their children have ADHD," Visser said.

One expert found it hard to believe that so many kids might have ADHD. "It sounds a little high," said Howard Abikoff, a psychologist who is director of the Institute for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and Behavior Disorders at New York University's Child Study Center.

Other studies have suggested more like 5 percent of kids have ADHD, and there are no known biological reasons for it to be on a recent increase, he added.

Abikoff noted the CDC study is based on parents saying that a health care provider told them their child had ADHD, but it's not known who the health-care provider was or how thorough the assessment was.

ADHD diagnosis is a matter of expert opinion. There's no blood test or brain-imaging exam for the condition. Sometimes reading disabilities or other problems in the classroom cause a teacher or others to mistakenly think a child has ADHD, he said.

The CDC study noted an increase in diagnoses was seen in kids of all races and family income levels, and across all regions of the country except the West. The survey covered 73,000 children.

Of those who had ADHD at the time of the latest survey, about half had a mild form.

The research appears in the CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


11 Responses
377493 tn?1356505749
I completely believe that ADHD is real.  However, I think it is way over diagnosed.  I know people that have tried everything, and at the end of the day medication is the only thing that can help their children function.  However, I also firmly believe that their are parents out there who just don't want to be bothered...they want the TV to babysit their children, have them sit quietly and not bother anyone, especially them.  Kids need activity...they need to run off that energy, play outside, etc. etc.  not just sit in front of a video game or tv all day.  So of course they get hyper....and a pill is not the best way to always fix it.  Get them active...I bet the diagnoses levels would drop.  

Medicating our children should be to help them function, not to assist parents in having "non bothersome" children.  

As for the school system, I can understand why teachers would be bringing this issue up more often.  Most classes are way overcrowded, and our teachers are being forced into more of a babysitter role then educator.  Perhaps if we put more resources into our education system, that would help as well.
203342 tn?1328740807
I think it's real too but way overdiagnosed. I have a few friends who have children with it but refuse the medication, prefering try more natural methods, like diet.

My oldest boy's 5th grade teacher tried telling me my son had ADHD and kept insisting I put him on Ritalin. I resisted and resisted and she kept insisting, saying he was wiggly in his seat and would tap his pencil. I told her to just get his attention back to his work and he'd be fine. By 6th grade his teacher shook his head and said to me firmly that he did NOT need Ritalin. That year they tested my son at reading at an 11th grade level.
I think he was just really intelligent and thought differently than the other kids and was bored. Today he's 22 years old and still very, very bright.

They next tried to tell me my daughter had ADD but upon further testing we discovered she had Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) which greatly mimics ADD (we had my son tested too. He didn't have it). The Audiologist told me that many parents mistakenly put their children on Ritalin thinking they have ADD or ADHD when they may very well have APD. APD means they hear fine (so my daughter would pass a normal hearing test) but the processing part of the brain doesn't hear or process everything correctly so they can misunderstand something that was said to them. People with APD do better with things being written down, rather than verbal instructions.

I think parents just need to check all their options before immediately accepting any kind of diagnosis for their child, especially if it involves any kind of medication.

Something else I've wondered. There seems to be an increase of ADHD and also Autism. It makes me wonder if there really is something in the environment that could be causing any of this? I know they are still checking on that and many do believe there's something to that.
Avatar universal
I think this has been so over diagnosed. I have noticed down thru the years it seems to be getting more and more prevalent. I have 3 grown girls and 2 grown sons. Would you believe each one of them has at least one child who has been diagnosed with this! I dont think there is anything wrong that a little good old fashioned exercise and self discipline wouldnt cure. But no! They are all on meds!!!!

So pardon me if I do not think this is a way of peddling meds and increasing med funds on behalf of our children. I mean, I realize some kids have issues, but this many?
127124 tn?1326739035
I believe alot of kids are diagnosed with this just so parents don't have to cope with some.   But I am the mother of a child with ADD.   We spent years trying to reteach her train of thought.  Finally things got so bad we decided to try medication.   It took awhile to find the right medication and dosage but now that we have it has made a world of difference.  She is not drugged out.  She is completely coherant and much happier on the meds. Our daughter was extremely frustrated and realized she couldn't focus and this escalated into violent behavioral outbursts.     I am happy to say she is now doing well in school.    
(I understand some will not agree with our choice to use medication and that is fine.  I do ask that no one single me or my family out if they don't agree)
127124 tn?1326739035
I also wanted to add that my kids are very active.  They do not spend hours in front of the tv, video games or computer.
377493 tn?1356505749
You have made my point.  I know other mom's in your situation, and every single one of them tried other things first.  I absolutely believe this is a real condition, and one that some children require medication for.  But there is a huge difference between giving your children these medications for their sake as opposed to your own.  Look at how you put it..."she is completely coherant and happier on the meds".  SHE is happier on the meds...see what I mean?  It wasn't just because you didn't want to deal with a busy child.  She truly had a need for extra assistance.  Another friend of mine on here has a son in the same situation..very busy, very active, but at the end of the day requires medication to help him.  It's a real condition, I just think it's a bit overused these days.
Avatar universal
Like I said, some children need intervention. But with the ones in my family, they do sit in front of tv and video games ALOT! Rarely are they outside running and jumping and playing. No wonder they cannot sit still! My kids just think I am old and out of it. Probably so.
Avatar universal
And one of em is on one pill for anxiety, another to make him focus, and another for a mood disorder which is an anti psychotic.
127124 tn?1326739035
I don't think you are old and out of it.  It's too bad your kids don't agree with you.   Sometimes are daughter has problems sleeping (side effect of the medication) but we refuse to use sleeping pills.   She has learned to use soft music or read to help her fall asleep.  
419158 tn?1316575204
I am positive my oldest has ADD. We dont have medical insurance so he has never been diagnosed. Since 1st grade his teachers have been telling me he has all the signs. He hates school, homeowrk usually last from the time he gets home untill the time he goes to bed because of his inability to focus on the task:( I have recently started reading up on this and would LOVE to be able to treat him without medication but im not positive that I could treat him myself without it. I have 3 other children besides him and the last 2 children are the neediest because they are only 1 and 2 years old so its very hard for me to just focus all my attention on him:(  The last 4 years of school have been he$$ for him. I feel horrible, school just keeps getting harder, but he is very smart!! He is a math wiz, its the reading and writing that get him. My poor son thinks the teachers all hate him. Makes me feel bad that he doesnt get to play outside or do anything fun aftre school just because he has homework:(

Okay sorry guys, now im just venting:~( School seems just as hard on me as it does him. Even getting up and getting dressed and making it out the door is a miraclel and itself for him because it takes soooooooo long for him to do anything.
973741 tn?1342346373
Hi blueeyed.  Has your school evaluated him?  If you are in the US, under a parents request, the school must evaluate and then put together a program for a child to help them through school.  At this time a child would receive any services that they need such as occupational therapy (young kids often really benefit from this as it works directly on the nervous system and adhd involves an overactive nervous system as well as helps with things like fine motor difficulty.  Can you imagine what 1st grade is like to a child that has a difficult time with writing?) as well as any classroom interventions (Billy needs a movement break every half hour to stay focused as an example).  

Now, this isn't really the forum for it----------  but I'm here and you are here so I'm just jumping in.  My son has a nervous system developmental delay called sensory intgration disorder.  It looks very much like adhd.  Part of what helps him do well and maintain  himself is tremendous amounts of physical activity or what they call "heavy work".  Our quest for this physical activity started when he was three and I also had a boy 15 months younger.  We hit parks, open gyms, bothered anyone we knew with a trampoline, etc. every single day.  I set up obstacle courses in the house, had us run races in the back yard, put a mattress on the floor to jump on, got a bop bag to punch, etc. and my little guy would just do things right along side of us.  So I'm just going to encourage you to find a way.  Your younger kids will benefit from being an active family and it could be the key to helping your older son soothe his nervous system.  If you are ever interested in a list of fun family activities that you can do that---------- pm me.  I've spent a lot of time coming up with ideas.  

Okay----------- I know wrong forum.

Anyway, I don't think that teachers and parents that are looking for answers to what is going on with a child is bad and have to believe that the majority have the best interest of the child at heart.  Add/adhd took off as a diagnosis and awareness grew tremendously in the past 2 decades.  I'm actually happy about that as so many kids have been helped.  I do think many things are lumped into the category and hopefully greater awareness about what else something "could" be becomes the norm.  I would try to see a psychiatrist over a gp for medication for kids and I think that studies show that a broad approach to treatment has the greatest benefit.  That means trying things other than just medication (and I'd go there last) but even if medication is being taken, that other things are done as well.  I'd have every child that has add/adhd signed up for swimming lessons year round for example.  (the perfect neurological exercise).  

Okay, whew.  Rambling like a fool here.  Sorry.
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