But most aren't getting the medications they need, researchers say
MONDAY, Sept. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 9 percent of American children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but only 32 percent of them are getting the medication they need.
That's the sobering conclusion of a landmark new study, the first of its kind based on what doctors consider the "gold standard" of diagnostic criteria -- the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.
"There is a perception that ADHD is overdiagnosed and overtreated," said lead researcher Dr. Tanya E. Froehlich, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Cincinnati Children's Medical Center. "But our study shows that for those who meet the criteria for ADHD, the opposite problem -- underdiagnosis and undertreatment -- seems to be occurring."
The researchers found that some 2.4 million children between the ages of 8 and 15 meet the medical definition of ADHD, but an estimated 1.2 million children haven't been diagnosed or treated, Froehlich said, adding that "girls were more likely to be undiagnosed."
What's more, children from poor families, who have the highest rates of ADHD, were the least likely to have consistent treatment with medication, Froehlich noted. "In addition, children without health insurance were less likely to be diagnosed and treated," she said.
The findings were published in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
ADHD is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years and is characterized by hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
To arrive at their findings, Froehlich and her colleagues collected data on 3,082 children who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Using interviews, the researcher
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