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ADHD diagnoses on the rise

August 18, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Almost one in 10 U.S. children are diagnosed with ADHD, according to a new survey.
Almost one in 10 U.S. children are diagnosed with ADHD, according to a new… (Keith Beaty / Toronto Star…)

ADHD diagnoses rose significantly in the last decade, according to surprising new data released Thursday.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a disorder usually diagnosed in childhood, is marked by impulsivity and problems paying attention, sitting still and concentrating. Children afflicted with ADHD who are untreated often have difficulties in school and home.

The survey, conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services' National Center for Health Statistics, found the percentage of children ages 5 to 17 ever diagnosed with the disorder rose from 7% to 9% from 1998-2000 through 2007-2009.

The upswing is surprising because during the same time period criticism mounted that children nationwide were being over-diagnosed with the condition. Moreover, concerns have been raised about the safety of medications to treat ADHD, such as a possible increased risk of heart-related problems linked to stimulant use.

The survey found ADHD diagnoses varied by race, ethnicity and region. Mexican children had lower rates of diagnosis than other groups. Rates increased to 10% in parts of the South and Midwest.

Earlier this week, scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse identified a specific dopamine receptor in the brain that appears to increase a person's risk of developing ADHD. The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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