Cover all your bases with ADHD diagnosis

In February the New England Journal of Medicine published a Stanford and University of Minnesota review on Attention Deficit- Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The content is important to persons impacted by ADHD.

A key concern is that ADHD is overdiagnosed – nearly 1 in 10 U.S. children are given this diagnosis compared to 1 in 20 in other nations. Overdiagnosis in this instance implies that many patients given a ADHD diagnosis do not actually have it. The implication is that half of those diagnosed with ADHD do not have it. Diagnosis requires a compilation of information from various persons who interact with the child, including teachers.

Because medications for ADHD are often sufficient to treat the symptoms of the condition, treatment can be incomplete. The medications are usually insufficient to correct the functional and social deficits. Behavioral therapy, which includes teachers, parents and peers, should be strongly considered for a successful outcome. Academic performance and conduct issues were most improved with behavioral therapy and resulted in less reliance on medication.

In summary, consider a child psychiatrist consult and psychoeducational assessment prior to diagnosis/treatment if you are concerned about ADHD in your child. Understand that everyone, not only those with ADHD, will act differently on ADHD medications. If a child actually has ADHD, simply giving him a pill will not improve his ability to function in the world but can have both short and long term undesired effects. A true ADHD diagnosis means the parents, family and teachers have signed up for years of work to improve the child’s outcome, no matter what the pharmaceutical company may advertise.

Allan P Frank, MD MS

Assistant Clinical Professor

of Medicine

Michigan State University