May Affect Brain Development
Pregnant women who took acetaminophen were more likely to have a child with ADHD, according to a Danish study. While the study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship and more research is needed, it does raise concerns among women who’ve been told the drug is safe during pregnancy. The study of more than 64,000 Danish children found that those whose mothers used acetaminophen during pregnancy were 13% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD-like behaviors; 37% were more likely to be diagnosed with hyperkinetic disorder and 29% were more likely to get ADHD meds. The study is preliminary and health experts say pregnant women should still use acetaminophen for fever because fevers may affect fetal development but should be conservative in their treatment of aches and pains.
Numbers on the Rise
A new study released by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the number of kids diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, has increased 53 percent since 2003. Approximately 6.4 million children in the US between the ages of four and 17 have been diagnosed. “Those are astronomical numbers,” says Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist and professor at the Yale School of Medicine. The study also indicates that two-thirds of the diagnosed children are on a prescribed medication such as Ritalin or Adderall, which leads to concerns about the over-medicating of kids to the detriment of their later health. “Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily,” warns Dr. Graf. Symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsiveness.
Adult Awareness the Reason
Over a ten year period the rate of new cases of childhood ADHD has soared by 24 percent, according to a study of professional diagnoses by Kaiser Permanente of Southern California. Based on the records of 843,000 kids ages 5 to 11, the rate of new ADHD cases rose from 2.5 percent of the population in 2001 to 3.1 percent in 2010. The rise was even more extreme among minorities, ballooning by almost 70 percent among black children and 60 percent among Hispanic youth. For black girls, the increase was a stunning 90 percent. Overall rates, however, were highest in white children at 5.6 percent, up from a former 4.7 percent. Most experts attribute the increase not to more cases of the condition but to greater awareness among parents, teachers and pediatricians, leading to more diagnoses.
Many Go Untreated
Medications that treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), such as Ritalin and Adderall, are in such short supply in the US that patients have complained that they can’t find pharmacies to fill their prescriptions. The NY Times reports that "the shortages are a result of a troubled partnership between drug manufacturers and the Drug Enforcement Administration, with companies trying to maximize their profits and drug enforcement agents trying to minimize abuse by people." The FDA reports that they’ve “reached out to the DEA ... but the quota issues are outside of our area of responsibility.” A spokesperson for the DEA says, “We believe there is plenty of supply.” Many physicians and patient advocacy organizations say patients are going untreated due to the shortages.
Four Genes in Same Family
A new study from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in which the genomes of 1,000 kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and 4,100 controls found that 10 percent of those with the disorder had variations in four genes that play a role in the glutamate receptor (GMR). Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that helps neurons communicate with one another in the brain. The most significant results were seen in the GMR5 gene. This study confirms prior research that suggested the glutamate played a role in the disorder that makes it difficult for children to concentrate, sit still and control their impulses. Researchers are also hopeful that these results will allow them to design better and more individualized treatment for those with ADHD that have these variations.
Addiction Higher Quitting Harder
A study analyzing 27 previous long term studies of about 4,100 kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and 6,800 healthy controls found that kids with the disorder are more likely to become addicted to drugs and have a harder time quitting. ADHD makes focusing, completing one task, staying interested in something and remaining still difficult. These kids enter into adolescence and adulthood with serious, moderate or mild academic and social problems. It is important that kids are diagnosed properly, meaning they have at least six out of the nine symptoms that cause problems in all aspects of their lives. They should also be diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist. The complete study has been published online at Clinical Psychology Review.
Stressors in Birth May Pose Risk
A newborn’s Apgar scores, which measure signs such as heart rate, breathing and muscle tone, may be an indicator of their likelihood of developing attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as kids. The higher the score, the less likely they are to develop ADHD based on a study involving over 980,000 Danish children born between 1998 and 2001. Kids who scores were 5 or 6 had a 63 percent greater risk of developing ADHD while those with a 4 or 5 had a 75 percent greater risk compared to kids with a 9 or 10. The results were the same even after other factors were accounted for. One hypothesis is that a stressor, such as decreased oxygen supply, may lead to an increased risk of developing the condition that has been diagnosed in one in 10 children in the U.S.
Abuse Potential Increased
Teens and young adults are twice as likely to receive a prescription for a controlled substance today than they were 15 years ago, conclude researchers from the University of Rochester in New York. The study revealed that in 2007 one out of nine teenagers, plus one out of six young adults in their 20s received prescriptions for drugs with the potential for abuse, including stimulants and sedatives, as well as painkillers. The prescriptions were typically written for back pain or other musculoskeletal pain, insomnia, or injury, reports MSNBC. Other prescriptions, such as Ritalin, were written for psychiatric problems or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Choosing Texting over Sleeping
Teenagers keep sending text messages after going to bed, say researchers who report that the teens are sending an average of 34 messages a night (3,400 a month) while they're supposed to be trying to sleep. The study results are a cause for concern. Half of the teens staying awake to text, play games or listen to music on electronic media suffered from cognitive and mood problems like anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning issues and depression. Lead researcher and sleep expert Dr. Peter Polos told MSNBC that interactive distractions like texting are worse about delaying sleep than TV. Research also revealed that girls text more at night, while boys play games or surf the Internet.
Fuss Now, Anxiety Later?
Infants who are fussy during their first weeks of life are more likely than other children to experience mental health problems later in life, say researchers presenting at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's Annual Meeting. According to the new study, babies who act temperamental around four weeks old may be more likely to have mood or behavior problems down the road, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or anxiety. MSNBC reports that University of Iowa professor Beth Troutman said that infant fussiness can be a very good predictor of problems. For the study, mothers filled out questionnaires on their infants, rating how intensely babies cried and how often they got upset, as well as other questions. Kids were also evaluated at ages 8 to 11.
Targets Side Effects on the CNS
Drugs like Ritalin may help childhood cancer survivors who often develop long term problems with thinking, memory, attention span, behavior and school performance because of treatments that often target the central nervous system. A study of 122 children treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain cancer that subsequently developed difficulties with learning and attention was conducted to determine if Ritalin would help. There was a greater improvement in attention, behavior and social skills in about 50 percent of the kids given Ritalin compared to the untreated control group. Data on school performance was not clear as improvement in reading, math and spelling did not differ between the groups. This study does not indicate all childhood cancer survivors should take the drug.
Almost One Million Kids Affected
A new study suggests that approximately one million children may be misdiagnosed with ADHD when they may just be intellectually and emotionally immature compared to their peers. Twelve thousand children were studied and it was found that “the youngest kindergartners were 60 percent more like to be misdiagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children in the same grade.” Spending on prescriptions could be costing 320 to 500 million dollars annually and 80 to 90 percent of it paid for by Medicaid. Ritalin is most commonly prescribed, but the long term health effects which are not known. Elder, lead author of the study believes that teachers perceive poor behavior by the youngest kids in a class as ADHD which lead doctors to diagnose them with the condition.