ADHD : Increase in ADHD Diagnosis

Jennifer Gordon, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.

A recent study out of California found that rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rose 24 percent between 2001 and 2010.

Kaiser Permanente Southern California Medical Group surveyed 850,000 medical charts for kids ages 5 to 11 and noted the increase.

Local physicians have noticed the rise in ADHD cases as well.

"I don't think there's hardly a day that goes by that we don't have a teen, a middle school, high school or college student who doesn't have concerns about this," says Dr. Tim Murphy, a physician with Heartland Health's Ten-Twenty Adolescent Center.

Dr. Karl Kosse also has noticed a lot of ADHD cases at his practice, Kosse Pediatrics, but he says the numbers don't necessarily mean more kids have ADHD than in years past. It might just mean more children are able to be treated for it.

"Twenty years ago, you had to have pretty bad ADHD to do the medicine because the medicine was difficult and it had a lot of side effects," he says.

Dr. Kosse says doctors could identify mild cases of ADHD, but with many patients, treating the ADHD wasn't worth the side effects for the medicine.

Dr. Murphy agrees. When he started practicing medicine, there were three options for ADHD medication and none were long-acting. Kids that didn't respond well to the medications went untreated because there was nothing else to try.

More awareness of ADHD and its symptoms also could be contributing to the rise in diagnoses, both Dr. Kosse and Dr. Murphy say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that parent-reported cases of ADHD increased by 22 percent between 2003 and 2007.

With the Ten-Twenty Adolescent Clinic, it's often the teens deciding whether they need help, Dr. Murphy says.

According to the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders IV, the predominant diagnostic manual for physicians and mental health professionals, most children can't receive a diagnosis of ADHD until they're school aged.

Hyperactivity typically gets noticed first, as early as kindergarten or first grade, says Dr. Kosse.

When teens come in for a diagnosis, it's typically for inattention. Though the side effect is something the teen may have noticed for several years, it doesn't become as big of an issue until high school or even college, Dr. Murphy says.

Jennifer Gordon can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPGordon.

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