USA Today editorializes, “Look around a school lunchroom these days and odds are that one out of every 20 boys (and one in 43 girls) will have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,” and “more than half of those boys will be on Ritalin (Methylphenidate), Concerta (methylphenidate) or Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine).”
More Information:USA Today says, “the trouble is that the drugs’ effectiveness might dissipate after 14 months of use, and they might be harmful.” The basis for this claim are some of the most recent results from the government’s leading, multiyear study of several hundred children called theMultimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD or MTA Study.
ADHD researchers have been arguing for the past 10 years over these findings. The MTA study was the largest study ever conducted to compare the benefits of medication to behavioral interventions.
This latest report from the MTA study tracked 485 children for eight years and found those still taking stimulant medication fared no better in the reduction of symptoms such as inattention and hyperactivity or in social functioning than those who hadn’t. Most of the children who had taken medication for the first 14 months were no longer taking it.
This, the researchers wrote, raises “questions about whether medication treatment beyond two years continues to be beneficial or needed at all.”
However, earlier reports found that children taking stimulants alone or combined with behavioral treatment did better in the first year than children who got no special care or who got behavioral treatment alone.
Thus, the arguments.
Nevertheless, these new findings, according to USA Today, “ought to lead parents, educators, doctors and mental-health professionals to take a much more cautious approach to the drugs.”
Furthermore, “school officials have a particular role.” Teachers, in particular, “have been the most likely group – more than parents or doctors – to refer a child for an ADHD diagnosis,” and “drugs are the usual consequence.”
USA Today concludes, “Public education is now needed so that both teachers and parents are better equipped to weigh the drugs’ short-term benefits against ADHD treatments with better long-term results.”
However, in an accompanying editorial, an expert cautions against retreating from proven ADHD treatments.
In his op-ed in USA Today, E. Clarke Ross, CEO of Children and Adults with Attention DeficitHyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), writes, “It would be a mistake for parents to use the latest data from the Multimodal Treatment Study on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (MTA) as a reason to retreat from using proven treatments … for the disorder.”
Ross points out, “What is important is that both medication and psychosocial treatment made a significant difference during the 14 months in which they were being administered in a controlled fashion. Their effectiveness appeared to dissipate when the youngsters were no longer participating in the study. The latest data come from observations made years after the study ended.”
I have a great admiration for CHADD and often recommend the website. I think CHADD is one of the best sources for evidence-based and trustworthy evidence for ADHD.
Ross claims that “we must be careful not to oversimplify the findings of a complex study … and we need to understand its limitations.”
Furthermore, as I’ve pointed out in my book, Why ADHD Doesn’t Mean Disaster, there are the realities of untreated ADHD, such as school failure, poor test scores, increased rates of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, increased risks of out-of-wedlock sex and pregnancy, and an increased risk for auto accidents. What parent wants that for their teen.
Clark concludes that “parents must work with their treatment professional to make the best decisions based on all available information.”
You can read more about the evidence supporting a wide variety of treatment options for ADHD in my book, Why ADHD Doesn’t Mean Disaster.