April 27, 2009
ADHD Medication Results In Higher Test Scores In Children
A new long term study has found that children taking medication for attention deficit disorder received higher scores on tests than those who did not take ADHD medication.
The national study included 600 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and observed them from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Standardized math and reading exams taken by the students during that span of time were reviewed. Measured up against those who did take ADHD medication, normal scores for medicated children were three points higher in math and five points in reading.
Researchers recognized that there are still things to consider, but that the advantages for medicated youngsters are still noteworthy.
"We're not trying to say in this study that medication is the only answer," but the results should not be ignored by parents, educators and policy-makers, noted Richard Scheffler, the head author and professor at the University of California at Berkeley's School of Public Health.
The majority of the students being treated for ADHD in the study were on unidentified stimulants.
Approximately 4 million U.S. children have been identified as having ADHD. Half of these kids take strong stimulants like Ritalin to manage the restlessness and impulsive behavior that defines the condition.
American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines state that these stimulant drugs are efficient, but behavior strategies should also be utilized.
Psychiatrist Dr. Bennett Leventhal deemed the results remarkable.
"It doesn't mean that every child with ADHD should be taking medication," but prior research has implied that the majority of the affected kids can benefit from the drugs, noted Leventhal, a University of Illinois-Chicago psychiatry professor.
Dr. Louis Kraus, a psychiatrist with Chicago's Rush University Medical Center, is concerned that the study will influence parents in choosing the medication first over simple behavior strategies.
Blake Taylor, a 19-year-old Berkeley sophomore who has been taking ADHD medicine since 5 years old, does not find the outcome shocking.
The medicine "doesn't make me smarter," he said, but "it allows me to focus, to be more organized."
Taylor remembered not doing well on a high school test that he'd studied hard for, but had forgotten to take his ADHD medication that day. He did not do very well, becoming too distracted to focus.
Taylor also added, "I didn't want to be different from my other classmates." Taking his medicine was a cue that he was.
The study is published in the May issue of Pediatrics, available Monday.
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