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ADHD Diagnosis and Medication Use Sharply Increased During the Last Decade: CDC

Nov 23, 2013 08:42 PM EST

ADHD diagnoses continue to rise in US children, as does the number of those taking medication for the disorder, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in a recent study.

Some 6.4 million children between the ages of 4-17, or just a little more than 1 out of 10, were reported by their parents as having received an ADHD diagnosis from a health care provider -- a 42 percent increase from 2003-2004 to 2011-2012.

More than 3.5 million, or 6 percent, were reported as taking medication for the disorder, a 28 percent increase from 2007-2008 to 2011-2012.

Half of the children were diagnosed by the time they were 6 years old, although children with more severe ADHD were often diagnosed earlier.

"This finding suggests that there are a large number of young children who could benefit from the early initiation of behavioral therapy, which is recommended as the first-line treatment for preschool children with ADHD," Susanna Visser, a researcher from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

One of the most common neurobehavioral disorders of childhood, ADHD is characterized by difficulty paying attention and/or impulsive behaviors. Effective treatments include medication, mental health treatment or a combination of both.

According to the CDC, children who receive needed treatment have the best chance of thriving at home, doing well at school and socializing.

Nearly 1 in 15, or 18 percent, of the children with ADHD did not receive mental health counseling or medication in 2011-2012, one-third of whom were reported to have moderate or severe ADHD.

"This finding raises concerns about whether these children and their families are receiving needed services," said Dr. Michael Lu, Senior Administrator, Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA).

Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that medication is the most common form of treatment among those with the most severe ADHD.

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