Study finds minority children prescribed ADHD medication more likely to discontinue treatment

May 24, 2017 by Melva Robertson, Emory University
Study finds minority children prescribed ADHD medication more likely to discontinue treatment
Credit: Emory University

A study led by researchers from the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health published in the June 2017 edition of Pediatrics found higher rates of medication discontinuation and treatment disengagement among minority youth compared to whites diagnosed with and prescribed medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Led by Janet Cummings, PhD, associate professor of Health Policy and Management at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health, the study, "Racial and Ethnic differences in ADHD Treatment Quality among Medicaid-Enrolled Youth" examined Medicaid claims data from nine states. It found that rates of medication discontinuation and treatment dropout were high for all youth in the study, and even higher for minority . Medicaid is the largest insurer of children in the United States. 

More than three-fifths of children discontinued medication during the study. Compared to whites, Black and Hispanic children were 22.4 and 16.7 percentage points more likely to discontinue medication.  Among those who discontinued medication, the study also examined how often youth received any psychotherapy services, and rates at which they disengaged from treatment. Black and Hispanic children were 13.1 and 9.4 percentage points (respectively) more likely than whites to disengage from treatment.   

Cummings and colleagues were especially concerned because more than seven-tenths of youth who discontinue medication do not receive any type of psychotherapy services for ADHD – including behavioral therapy. Because so few of those who discontinued medication received any other services, the higher rates of medication discontinuation among minority patients translated into significantly higher rates of stopping treatment.   

"If parents decide that they don't want their child to take for ADHD, it's crucial for health care providers and health care systems to make every effort to connect these families to therapy services," said Cummings. "These connections could reduce the rate of dropout and improve disparities."

Cummings also adds, "One of the key challenges is that many communities have shortages of mental health specialists who accept Medicaid. It is critical for policymakers to invest in expanding the availability of psychotherapy services in settings more accessible to these families – such as federally qualified health centers and school-based clinics."

Explore further: Increase in evidence-based practice for children with ADHD

More information: Janet R. Cummings et al. Racial and Ethnic Differences in ADHD Treatment Quality Among Medicaid-Enrolled Youth, Pediatrics (2017). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-2444

Related Stories

Increase in evidence-based practice for children with ADHD

August 4, 2016
(HealthDay)—More Medicaid-covered children are receiving treatments that conform to practice standards for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including the use of combined medication and psychotherapy, according ...

ADHD medication associated with reduced risk for motor vehicle crashes

May 10, 2017
In a study of more than 2.3 million patients in the United States with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), rates of motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) were lower when they had received their medication, according to ...

Children in foster care three times more likely to have ADHD diagnosis

October 23, 2015
Researchers already knew that attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was the most common behavioral health diagnosis among children enrolled in Medicaid. A new study to be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics ...

Study reveals critical gap in psychosocial services for Medicaid-insured youth

March 8, 2016
A majority of Medicaid-insured youth are not receiving psychosocial services before initiating antipsychotic treatment, according to a multi-state study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent ...

Study finds children with ADHD have questions for their doctor but don't ask them

April 20, 2017
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder want to ask their physicians about their condition and medications but often don't, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The ...

Study questions benefits of long-term use of ADHD medications

March 13, 2017
In a study that followed more than 500 children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) into adulthood, extended use of stimulant medication was linked with suppressed adult height but not with reduced symptoms ...

Recommended for you

After-school programs a blessing for kids with ADHD

May 8, 2018
(HealthDay)—After-school activities might be just what the doctor ordered for kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), researchers suggest.

Computerized test may help improve ADHD diagnoses

May 4, 2018
The prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses in children and young people has increased, but diagnostic practice among clinicians remains variable, with significant diagnostic delays and reliance ...

Kids with severe brain injuries may develop ADHD: study

March 19, 2018
(HealthDay)—Young children who sustain a severe head injury may struggle with attention problems as they grow older, researchers say.

For children with ADHD, a brief, school-based program can help dramatically with homework problems, study finds

December 6, 2017
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who took part in a brief, school-based program displayed significant improvements in their homework, organization and planning skills, according to a new study led by ...

What can twitter reveal about people with ADHD?

November 9, 2017
What can Twitter reveal about people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD? Quite a bit about what life is like for someone with the condition, according to findings published by University of Pennsylvania ...

Brain imaging reveals ADHD as a collection of different disorders

November 8, 2017
Researchers have found that patients with different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have impairments in unique brain systems, indicating that there may not be a one-size-fits-all explanation for the ...


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.