Diagnosis of ADHD on the rise: 10 million American children diagnosed with ADHD during doctors' visits

March 19, 2012

The number of American children leaving doctors' offices with an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis has risen 66 percent 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, which was published in the March/April issue of the journal , analyzed ADHD trends from 2000 to 2010 among children under the age of 18 who were diagnosed and treated by office-based physicians. Researchers analyzed 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 Craig Garfield, M.D., first author of the study. "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 recognize symptoms and diagnose the disorder."

Garfield is an assistant professor in pediatrics and medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a at Children's Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Symptoms of ADHD, such as trouble and controlling impulsive behaviors 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 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 psychostimulants have remained the most common medication prescribed to children with ADHD. Psychostimulants were used in 96 percent of treatments in 2000 and 87 percent 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 pediatric psychiatrists.

"Recently, there's been more public health advisories issued about problems or side effects of different ADHD medications," Garfield said. "It may be that general pediatricians are shying away from treating patients themselves and instead rely on their specialist colleagues to provide the treatment and management of these medications."

Given the short supply of psychiatrists specializing in pediatric ADHD, Garfield said this trend might make it difficult for many children to receive medical treatment of in the future.

Explore further: Hyperactivity: Increased prevalence of children with ADHD and the use of stimulants

Related Stories

Hyperactivity: Increased prevalence of children with ADHD and the use of stimulants

March 5, 2012
A new study from the Université de Montréal shows an increase in prevalence of Canadian children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and in the use of medications associated with ADHD ...

AAP expands ages for diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in children

October 16, 2011
Updated guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offer new information on diagnosing and treating Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in younger children and in adolescents.

Scientists show how gene variant linked to ADHD could operate

August 16, 2011
A study using mice provides insight into how a specific receptor subtype in the brain could play a role in increasing a person's risk for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The research, conducted by the Intramural ...

Study finds children with ADHD also at risk for writing difficulties

August 26, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers from the Mayo Clinic have just completed a study to find out if children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) also have problems with writing. It has long been known that children ...

Recommended for you

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

freethinking
not rated yet Mar 19, 2012
I talked recently with one of the top doctors in the USA. He said he became one of the top docs BECAUSE he has ADHD and Asperger's. People need to realize that generally ADHD is just a symptom of normal range of behavior that adults have problems with or lack of proper parenting. I have also heard of ADHD being cured by telling a teacher that the kid whom she thought had ADHD was now being medicated (when in fact the kid wasn't).

Adults who want kids to be drugged should be the ones drugged.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.