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CDC: Childhood ADHD rate rises 22 percent
November 10th, 2010
04:00 PM ET

CDC: Childhood ADHD rate rises 22 percent

Nearly one in 10 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the rate appears to be growing, according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The percentage of children ages 4 to 17 who have ever been diagnosed with ADHD rose from 7.8 percent to 9.5 percent between 2003 and 2007—a 22 percent increase, the CDC found. The report was based on the results of the National Survey of Children's Health, a nationwide telephone survey of parents.

The increases were especially dramatic among 15- to 17-year-olds and Hispanics.

It's unclear from the survey data whether the increase in diagnoses is due to an actual rise in ADHD cases stemming from social or environmental factors, or to growing awareness of the disorder, the researchers say.

Susanna Visser, an epidemiologist at the CDC and the lead author of the report, says that factors including lead exposure, low birth weight, and premature birth have all been shown to contribute to ADHD symptoms. "This collection of risk factors could be moving in a direction that causes certain demographic groups to have higher rates of ADHD," she says. "We have to figure out what's driving the change."

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Getting to the root of ADHD trends will require studies that follow groups of children over time, as well as genetic and MRI studies, Visser says. Several such studies are already under way at the National Institutes for Health, she adds.

Although ADHD rates went up in all 50 states, the increases were especially striking in 12 states, including Indiana, North Carolina, and Colorado. In North Carolina—which had the highest ADHD prevalence in the nation—the rate rose from 9.6 percent to 15.6 percent, an increase of about 63 percent.

Those 12 states "largely account for the increase" nationwide, Visser says.

States with very high diagnosis rates included Alabama (14 percent), Delaware (14 percent), Ohio (13 percent), West Virginia (13 percent), and Arkansas (13 percent), in addition to North Carolina.

Roughly half of all children diagnosed with ADHD had a "moderate" or "severe" case of the disorder, and two-thirds of all children with ADHD were taking medication to control it. The estimated 2.7 million children ages 4 to 17 taking ADHD drugs represent 5 percent of all children nationwide in that age group, according to the report.

Health.com: What if my child begins to exhibit symptoms of ADHD?

If parents are concerned about their child's behavior, they should seek out information about ADHD and consult a doctor, Visser says. "There are ways to manage and control the symptoms of ADHD, through work with your doctor and with school professionals. This can be successfully managed."

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soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. Stephanie

    My 10 yr daughter has been diagnoised with ADD/ADHD. Since a very young age I knew that she was "different". Not in a bad way but in a way that she processes information. In school when she tests, she is advance proficient, almost perfect scores but in the classroom she is often inattentive and easily distracted. My husband and I did not want to put her on meds and we tried many different elimenation diets and excerises that didn't work 100%. After 2 years of trying, we agreed to put on her meds and she now has an easier time in the classroom. When we study with her for a test like spelling words or meaning of words she needs to be moving, so she dances, does jumping jacks and twirls. This works for her. She is also very musicaly incline. Her self esteem is low due to the fact of her not being to pay attention, we are working on this with her but it is difficult at times. I would like to take her off the meds but I see such an improvement with her on them.

    November 11, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. CarolB

    I'm a parent of an ADHD child. I believe in using drugs as necessary as I have seen how much it's helped my daughter. And believe me, my husband and I really fought the idea of "drugging" our child, but I can't deny it has helped her, especially when she herself says the medicine helps.
    ADHD is real, it is not about lazy parenting or lazy doctors or lazy teachers. I know parents who have brought their kids to the doctor because they thought they were ADHD and after testing, the doctors told them no, it isn't ADHD, let's look at other factors. There are lots of concientious physicians and parents out there looking for answers.
    Someone earlier asked me "if it's different wiring then why do you need drugs to cope?" That's a good question and it's hard to answer. Right now, I don't need the drug to cope, my daughter does. It is the best tool we have at this time. Our goal is that my daughter learns to recognize own behavior and learns to adapt as she goes so she can function successfully in society. We've seen her grow, make progress and figure out ways to cope (ie, medicine wears off after dinner, so she chooses to do her homework right away after school), and someday she won't need the drugs anymore, even though she will always have ADHD. You don't outgrow it, you learn to be successful in spite of and because of it. I doubt the meds will make her a drug addict, any more than taking asthma medication would.
    Maybe someday we will learn enough about behavior and the brain that we won't need the tool of medication anymore in dealing with ADHD. I hope so. In the meantime, we pay attention, stay flexible, and frankly, enjoy the craziness. Sometimes. 14-year-old girl (HORMONES for crying out loud) + ADHD = interesting times. But I wouldn't miss it for anything.

    November 11, 2010 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. AzHitman

    I seriously think this is just bad parenting for the most part. Kids are not getting the attention or discipline they once had back when all you needed to support your family is one person working. With two parents working who's rearing your children? TV? World of Warcraft? Of course they are all going to be hyper and stupid.

    November 11, 2010 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CarolB

      Doesn't wash man, too many good kids growing up in 2-paycheck or 1 parent homes (me included) for that excuse to be valid.

      November 11, 2010 at 17:02 | Report abuse |
  4. HPN

    Yea, like they told me I had ADD or was it ADHD, who can remember these days, when I was a kid or was it in high school, anyways they put me on those meds. that Tom Cruise or was it John Travalta who went on Ophra and jumped up in a chair you know and told like the hole world they didn't know what the Hell they were talking about, that the stuff was like from Satin and was just legalized Meth and stuff. So I, uh, I, uh, I, uh stopped taking that crap like right away,cause you know Tom or, or is it nor, John either one are like straight up kind of dudes and would never steer you wrong, well okay Tommy boy in my opinion really screwed up on that Nichol Kidman thing. The point I'm trying to make here, Ooops, the whistle just blew, time to go home, will finish up next week when I come back. Talk to you then

    November 11, 2010 at 16:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Mom Dealing With This Issue

    Everyone is entiltled to their own opinion, but I am so sick & tired of reading comments from people who say this is a made up disease & give the kids less sugar & learn how to discipline your children, etc, etc, etc. My son began having "behavioral" problems around 3 years old. With both myself & his father having to work, he was spending the majority of the time at daycare while we were at work. The daycare started complaining that he wasn't listening & progressively became worse to the point of physical aggression with other children. We had several conferences with the daycare director to the point where we were told that we needed to do something or he was going to be expelled from the daycare. We had tried everything with him. We tried punishment, rewards, sticker charts, you name it, we tried it. NOTHING WORKED. One thing that stuck out in my head was during the one conference, his daycare teacher mentioned a situation which occurred during story time. All of the children were supposed to be sitting down in a circle to listen to the story & then the teacher would ask them questions afterwards. My son refused to sit in the circle & was over playing with blocks not appearing to be paying attention, however, when the teacher began to ask questions, he knew all of the answers. He was listening, however, could not concentrate & sit still like the other children.
    We have always been very health conscious & only allow "junk" foods for special occasions. We never gave him Kool-Aid or Soda, it was always either, milk, water, or 100% fruit juice. So his diet was not the issue. We took him to a behavioral specialist who diagnosed him with ADHD. We tried several different medications until we found the combination that works best for him. He is now 11 (almost 12) & is doing well. He is still on medications for the ADHD & had since also been diagnosed with ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder). We have had our problems along the way, but he would not be where he is today without the help of the medications. He is a straight A student. There are still many things he struggles with on a daily basis, like organizational skills & prioritizing to name a few. He also tends to give up & get frustrated quickly if something does not come easy to him, but we work through it.
    This disease has always existed. It was just becomming known when I was growning up, but research has found that many people who are drug addicts today are people with ADD & ADHD who were never properly diagnosed & treated & therefore chose to self medicate to try to get them through life. If you ask me, it's quite a shame. So before you put your 2 cents in, make sure you know what you are talking about.

    November 11, 2010 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Trevor

      Which medication have you tried and/or use currently? Concerta?

      Thanks.

      November 11, 2010 at 17:55 | Report abuse |
  6. Mom Dealing With This Issue

    Currently he is takes a combination of Focalin, Focalin XR & Risperdol. He was on Concerta in the past, but it was severly stunting his growth, so we changed him to the Focalin which affects his appetite less. Since the change he is now back on track & growing like a weed & eating me out of house & home. Sometimes, I don't know where he puts it all, he's as skinny as a twig. LOL. Hope that helps.

    November 12, 2010 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. My experiences form my opinion

    I believe that the issue really does exist but not to the extreme extent that we have seen recently. My son had turned 5 in July of 2009 and we chose to send him to kindergarten in August. Of course, right away, they were trying to convince me that something was seriously wrong with him. He would 'wiggle in his chair, be loud, talk out of turn, was impatient, didn't understand personal space, etc'. I refused to put him on medicine at 5 years old; finding it absolutely asinine that a school would suggest that a child that young be put on medicine before considering behavorial development exercises. My husband and I both agreed that we would take him to an outside specialist and see what they would determine. After months of meetings with the outside source, he determined that our son no longer needed to come back and gave us the 'diagnosis' that, yes, Logan was a little hyperactive, but nothing that should be of a concern at that point. He said that if we continued to have issues we could come back and talk to him again. Our son finished his Kindergarten year, had a great summer, turned 6 and started first grade. Now, he is doing great! Once in a while, he gets reprimanded for being too loud. He scores off the charts on all of his academics and is in an advanced reading class. I truly believe that there are a lot of children in the public school system that are misdiagnosed because they are trying to mainstream everyone and because they get government funding. Yes, I know this is bold to say, but I see a lot of parents medicating their children before trying any other alternatives. As I said, I do believe that the issue does exist for some people, but I do not believe that the numbers should be as high as they are. I learned my lesson as far as sending my son too early. I was forewarned by many people not to send him a month after he turned 5 and I did it anyway. I do not think that most boys are ready to go that early. I don't know what effect this medicine will end up having on all of these children in 50 years, but I am not taking the chance. Also, I do believe that it is a combination of parenting, diet, activity, and quality time ( or lack of) in some cases that cause these kids to act the way they do and then are labeled as ADD/ADHD. I think that the numbers are so high because people are so quick to jump to this conclusion instead of evaluating the real reason IN MOST CASES. For those of you that are reading this and do really have this issue with your child, I have said already in my post that I think it does exist for SOME PEOPLE, but it is overdiagnosed.

    November 23, 2010 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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