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Reduced Doses of Medication Beneficial to Preschoolers with ADHD

An exhaustive study, the first of its kind, designed to measure the safety and efficacy of treating preschoolers who suffer attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder// (ADHD) with methylphenidate (Ritalin), has revealed that reduced doses of this medication is beneficial and doesn’t cause harm. The study also revealed that it is important to closely observe preschoolers as they are more sensitive than older children to the side effects of medication.

The 70-week, six-site study was funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and was described in several articles in the November 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

"The Preschool ADHD Treatment Study, or PATS, provides us with the best information to date about treating very young children diagnosed with ADHD," said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, MD. "The results show that preschoolers may benefit from low doses of medication when it is closely monitored, but the positive effects are less evident and side-effects are somewhat greater than previous reports in older children."

Methylphenidate is the most commonly prescribed medication to treat children diagnosed with ADHD. But its use for children younger than 6 years has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. And until PATS, very few studies--and no large-scale ones--have been conducted to collect reliable, consistent data to help guide practitioners treating preschoolers with ADHD.

The 303 preschoolers enrolled in the study ranged in age from 3 to 5 years. The children and their parents participated in a pre-trial, 10-week behavioral therapy and training course. Only those children with the most extreme ADHD symptoms who did not improve after the behavioral therapy course and whose parents agreed to have them treated with medication were included in the medication study. In the first part of the medication study,
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