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ADHD Patients Continue to Suffer Into Adulthood

ADHD, Attention Deficity Hyperactivity Disorder

If you suspect your child has Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, it is best not to ignore the symptoms, hoping that he or she will “grow out of it.” Unfortunately, children who have ADHD often grow up still suffering and ultimately do not do as well as adults in the workplace and in personal relationships.

Researchers with NYU Langone Medical Center in New York followed 135 white middle-class men who had been rated as “hyperactive” by their elementary school teachers in the 1970’s. Although the terms were different back then (ie: they may have been labeled as “aggressive” or “antisocial”), Rachel Klein, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, says that today, they would have been diagnosed with ADHD. When the boys were 18, they were matched with a comparison group of boys who had visited the medical center for unrelated reasons and who were not having any problems in school.

Based on interviews conducted when the men were in their 40’s, those who had ADHD symptoms as children had less education, lower income, higher rates of divorce, and more often had substance abuse problems.

The boys with attention deficit disorder left school 2.5 years earlier than the boys in the comparison group. Thirty-one percent of the ADHD children did not finish high school. Only about 16% had college degrees versus 35% of their peers. Ultimately, this affected their salary potential. While the majority was employed, those suffering with ADHD often had significantly lower positions than their peers. The average annual salary in the “troubled” boys was $93,000, compared to $175,000 in the “normal” group.

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Most of the adults were not troublemakers, but there was a small portion that ended up in jail, says Dr. Klein. It's not clear from the study that ADHD itself puts people at risk for the antisocial behavior. But Klein said it's likely to be a slippery slope, with ADHD-linked impulsiveness making youngsters more likely to use drugs and spiral downward into crime and other behaviors, such as lying and cheating.

“Our findings confirm that men diagnosed with ADHD as children had multiple disadvantages throughout their lifetime,” said Dr. Klein.

ADHD is the most common neurobehavioral disorder among children, and the incidence is growing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in ten children in the U.S. have the condition. Not all of them will grow up to have issues, but the study serves as a reminder to pay attention to the unique needs of each child, says J. Russell Ramsay, not involved in the study but who studies ADHD at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Medication options for ADHD include stimulant medications such as Ritalin or Adderall, but behavioral coping strategies that can help address a child's specific difficulties should also be included in the treatment plan. "Pills don't teach skills," said Ramsay. "It is really an individualized treatment planning decision."

Journal Reference:
Klein RG, Mannuzza S, Olazagasti M, et al. Clinical and Functional Outcome of Childhood Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder 33 Years Later. Archives of General Psychiatry, 2012; DOI:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2012.271

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Our findings confirm that men diagnosed with ADHD as children had multiple disadvantages throughout their lifetime,” said Dr. Klein. “It’s essential that we monitor children with ADHD through adolescence and continue to treat them to help off-set issues that can extend into adulthood