Rates of ADHD on the rise in the region

Chances are you know at least one child who has been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In fact, you may know several people—children and adults—whose impulsive behavior, inattention and hyperactivity led them to be diagnosed with ADHD.

According to a new study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the children of Kentucky and Indiana had the highest rates of diagnosis in the nation in 2011, when the data was collected. Parents reported that 19 percent of Kentucky and 16 percent of Indiana children had been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives. The national average was 11 percent.

ADHD can cause children to have trouble focusing on their schoolwork and have problems getting along with others. They can even be at greater risk of injuries. ADHD sometimes coexists with other conditions such as anxiety and behavior and learning disorders. It is usually diagnosed in childhood and can last into adulthood.

The study also revealed that the rate of diagnosis has increased dramatically. In 2007, 10 percent of Kentucky children had a current diagnosis of ADHD; that number rose to nearly 15 percent in 2011. In Indiana, the current rate of diagnosis rose from just over nine percent to 13 percent. Nationwide, the rate of current diagnosis has risen from nearly eight percent to 11 percent.

“We’re not sure why our rates are so high,” said pediatrician Elaine Martin, M.D., UofL Physicians Pediatrics-Stonestreet, who cited increased awareness, genetics, alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, poverty and abuse as possible contributing factors.

“Inattention is common in a number of conditions. A thorough social, educational, family and environmental history should be investigated as well as conditions associated with inattention such as learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, neglect, abuse and sleep disorders,” she added.

Is it ADHD?

There is no single test for ADHD. Professionals use guidelines provided in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition, (DSM-5) to make the diagnosis. Parents who think their child may have ADHD can help gather information for diagnosis by completing an interactive checklist and giving it to their child’s pediatrician or family doctor.

Uncomplicated ADHD can be managed by a primary care provider. All general pediatricians have been trained to screen for attention deficit disorder, rule out other causes of inattentiveness or hyperactivity and work with families and schools to manage ADHD.

Often ADHD is accompanied by other complicating factors, such as anxiety, depression, behavior problems and learning disability. In these instances, engaging a specialty provider may be helpful. Child psychiatrists or psychologists can help manage more severe mental health issues, as well as provide guidance when typical ADHD management is inadequate.

Treatment options

Although ADHD can’t be cured, it can be successfully managed with medication, behavioral intervention strategies and parent training. Some children’s symptoms improve with age but some adults continue taking medication throughout their lives.

Several types of medications may be used to treat ADHD, including stimulants and non-stimulants. Medications affect children differently so physicians may try several medications and doses before settling on the best one.

Behavioral therapy is an important part of a child’s treatment plan and can help children learn to organize, create routines and avoid distractions. Sometimes, accommodations can be made in the classroom. Parent training and careful monitoring and follow up are also important parts of a child’s treatment plan.

UofL Physicians Resources

UofL Physicians has a wide variety of expertise to offer parents of children with suspected or diagnosed ADHD. We have general pediatricians who practice downtown, in south Louisville and in Germantown.

Weisskopf Child Evaluation Center providers can assist with a comprehensive evaluation for learning problems, such as dyslexia, low IQ, or memory impairment.

Child psychiatrists and psychologists practice at UofL Physicians—Bingham Clinic.