Update posted June 19, 2008: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released new recommendations about the use of heart tests–including an electrocardiogram (ECG)–for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) before starting treatment with stimulant drugs. The AAP currently recommends that children with ADHD have a thorough patient history, family history, and physical exam before starting treatment with stimulant drugs. The AAP does not recommend that children have an ECG unless the patient history, family's history, or physical examination raises concerns. Parents with questions or concerns about the use of ECGs should consult their child's pediatrician.
What do I need to know about ADHD?
Almost all children have times when their behavior veers out of control. They may speed about in constant motion, make noise nonstop, refuse to wait their turn, and crash into everything around them. At other times they may drift as if in a daydream, failing to pay attention or finish what they start.
However, for some children, these kinds of behaviors are more than an occasional problem. Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have behavior problems that are so frequent and severe that they interfere with their ability to live normal lives.
The following are some common questions parents have about ADHD.
Will my child outgrow ADHD?
ADHD continues into adulthood in most cases. However, by developing their strengths, structuring their environments, and using medication when needed, adults with ADHD can lead very productive lives. In some careers, having a high-energy behavior pattern can be an asset.
Why do so many children have ADHD?
The number of children who are being treated for ADHD has risen. It is not clear whether more children have ADHD or more children are being diagnosed with ADHD. Also, more children with ADHD are being treated for a longer period. ADHD is now one of the most common and most studied conditions of childhood. Because of more awareness and better ways of diagnosing and treating this disorder, more children are being helped. It may also be the case that school performance has become more important because of the higher technical demand of many jobs, and ADHD frequently interferes with school functioning.
Are schools putting children on ADHD medication?
Teachers are often the first to notice behavior signs of possible ADHD. However, only physicians can prescribe medications to treat ADHD. The diagnosis of ADHD should follow a careful process.
When taken as directed by a doctor, there is no evidence that children are getting high on stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate and amphetamine. At therapeutic doses, these drugs also do not sedate or tranquilize children and do not increase the risk of addiction.
Stimulants are classified as Schedule II drugs by the US Drug Enforcement Administration because there is abuse potential of this class of medication. If your child is on medication, it is always best to supervise the use of the medication closely. Atomoxetine and guanfacine are not Schedule II drugs because they don’t have abuse potential, even in adults.
Are stimulant medications “gateway” drugs leading to illegal drug or alcohol abuse?
People with ADHD are naturally impulsive and tend to take risks. But those patients with ADHD who are taking stimulants are not at greater risk and actually may be at a lower risk of using other drugs. Children and teenagers who have ADHD and also have coexisting conditions may be at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse, regardless of the medication used.