What does ADHD stand for?
When the medical community officially recognized ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) as a medical diagnosis with origin, traceable symptoms and a course of treatment, many anxious parents collectively sighed in relief. The prospect of acknowledgment of, and relief from, a condition that has for so long disrupted the lives of entire families was nothing short of a miracle for many. Unfortunately, now some fifteen years after the initial diagnoses of this neuro-behavioral disorder, it seems that ADHD is being over-diagnosed and children are potentially being overmedicated.
Symptoms of ADHD
Symptoms of ADHD include persistent patterns of compulsive behavior and an inability to focus or concentrate on a task. ADHD affects twice as many boys as girls, and 10% to 40% of victims diagnosed in childhood continue to have symptoms as adults. There is strong medical evidence of genetic predisposition to ADHD, with confirmed cases tending to run in families.
Treatments of ADHD
Treatment of ADHD typically includes a combination of medication, behavioral counseling for the patient and family. Additionally, modifications to environment and lifestyle facilitate a more structured pattern of behavior for the child. While most cases involve the use of stimulant medications, the effects of stimulants on children for a period of more than three years has not been determined, and long term effects are also uncharted.
Causes of ADHD
Clinical studies indicate that ADHD, in addition to its strong genetic predisposition, is more likely in children who were exposed to alcohol or tobacco in the utero. Additionally, studies have suggested that the ingestion of certain food color additives in fruit drinks by children is consistent with the diagnosis of ADHD. Previously thought a cause of hyperactivity, consumption of sugar is no longer believed to contribute to ADHD. Many children, it seems, grow out of ADHD as they develop coping skills with maturity.
Are Children Over-diagnosed with ADHD?
With over 90% of children diagnosed with ADHD on the medication Ritalin, and some communities reporting a caseload of ADHD topping 600% over the national average, the question remains as to whether ADHD is being over diagnosed or whether doctors are just getting more efficient at identifying the condition. Ritalin is a stimulant, and some doctors are now warning against its overuse especially in small children as it is a mind altering drug and the long term effects are generally unknown. It is difficult to determine if a series of negative behavioral patterns in children with ADHD as they mature into adolescence, is due to the progression of the disorder or as a side effect of Ritalin. Until clinical diagnosis can be made, measuring the actual chemical levels in the brain, use of mind-altering medications, especially in children, will continue to be a topic of debate.