ADHD research exploding in recent months
In recent months, researchers have published a large amount of material regarding attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The condition is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. It is characterized by the inability to focus or pay attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. The behavior problems are so frequent that they interfere with the child's ability to adequately function on a daily basis without treatment. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity. Amphetamine (Adderall), methylphenidate (Ritalin) and other central nervous system stimulants are given to children who suffer from ADHD. Interestingly, these drugs do not have the stimulant effect observed in adults when given to children before they reach puberty. In the U.S., approximately 2.7 million children are prescribed ADHD medication, primarily to reduce impulsive behavior as well as to improve focus and attention span. In addition, more than 1.5 million adults also take the medications. Over the past decade, the use of ADHD drugs in adults has outpaced that in children.
On October 16, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines. They provide instructions for pediatricians on diagnosing and managing ADHD in children 4 to 18. According to the new guidelines, behavioral management techniques should be the first treatment approach for preschool-age children. However, they also suggest that physicians consider prescribing Ritalin in preschool-age children with moderate to severe symptoms when behavioral intervention does not provide significant improvement. This recommendation is potentially controversial because methylphenidate is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FD) for use within that age group. Many ADHD medications are approved for children age six and older. The prior set of AAP guidelines, issued about a decade ago, gave recommendations for children six to 12. In addition to preschool-age children, the new recommendations also address teenagers who might not have been diagnosed at a younger age.