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ADHD in the News – Which States Medicate

January 17, 2014

ADHD States MedicateWith all the recent press about the ever increasing diagnosis rate there are a number of theories floating around about why the diagnosis rate, which is hovering around 11% per the CDC, is so much higher than the estimated prevalence (in children) of around 5%.  One of the more prevalent theories, that affluent parents are using the ADHD label and stimulant medication treatment to give their children an “edge”, was recently put to the test by a research team who compared differences in the use of stimulant medication treatment across different parts of the country.

Now, if the theory were true, the results of this data analysis would show that the highest concentration of stimulant use corresponded to affluent areas.  But the data doesn’t lie and this data proved that theory incorrect.  In fact, when socioeconomics were factored in, the results showed that higher treatment rates were prevalent in areas with lower socioeconomic status, rather than the other way around.  It might be easy to take that result and flip it on its head and go back to blaming bad parenting (since poor parents are almost always generalized into bad parents) for the increased diagnosis rates and seeming “overuse”of medication, but when you take into account the other important factors found to correlate to higher treatment rates, I think the real picture becomes clearer.  In addition to socioeconomic status, the other high treatment area factors were a higher availability of pediatricians and more funding for special education.

What these results say to me is that the kids who are lucky enough to get their ADHD treated with stimulant medication are lucky because they have more access to medical care and the special education services that can be the difference between a child who is diagnosed with ADHD, treated, and given the support needed to thrive and a child who is labeled as bad and slips through the cracks.

And, as a final thought, the next time someone starts talking about the “overuse” of medication, use these numbers to show them why they need to stop talking about things they clearly know nothing about.

1. According to the experts, the estimated prevalence of ADHD in children in 5% and in adults is 4.5%

2. This study found that only 2.5% of children and 0.75% of adults are being treated with stimulant medication.  (The study did not include those who are treated with non-stimulant medication like Intuniv and Strattera)

3.  This means that if you just use the prevalence figures, nearly 50% of children and 80% of adults with ADHD  are not being treated with stimulant medication.

4. AND if you then extrapolate this out to use the diagnosis rate rather than the estimated prevalence rate, less than 25% of children with ADHD are being treated with the stimulant medication that has proven to be the most effective treatment for ADHD.  (There aren’t any good diagnosis rates for adults)

Math has never been my thing, but even I have trouble understanding how we can be overusing stimulant medication to treat ADHD when 75-80% of the those with the condition are not taking the medication.  In my world, that looks more like a gross injustice.

You can read the original article about this study on the Psychology Today website.

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