ADHD diagnoses on the rise, CDC says
August 19th, 2011
12:06 PM ET

ADHD diagnoses on the rise, CDC says

More and more children are getting a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The percentage of children with the condition rose from 7% in 1998-2000 to 9% in 2007-2009, for both boys and girls. In some areas of the United States those figures are even higher. From 1998 to 2009, ADHD prevalence increased 10% in the Midwest and South.

That's not necessarily bad news; it could mean that with greater awareness of the condition and better access to health care, more children who have ADHD get a proper diagnosis, which is the first step toward seeking appropriate treatment. Medications and behavior therapies are available to help kids with attention issues. But the report did not directly measure whether the rise in ADHD cases reflected better detection or an actual increase in the number of children with the condition.

On the flip side, past research has found indications of frequent misdiagnosis of ADHD. Some parents say the first suggestion that their child might have ADHD came from educators rather than mental health professionals. That could lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment; ADHD is a specific condition involving lack of focus and impulsive behavior, but there could be other reasons for similar symptoms.

The CDC report looked at children 5 to 17 years old. It did not look at causes of ADHD, which remain somewhat mysterious; no one knows how to prevent ADHD or predict who will develop it.

Researchers highlighted disparities among ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Among children in families with an income under the poverty line, ADHD prevalence increased to 10.3%, and for those just above the poverty level it rose to about 11%.

ADHD prevalence is about the same across the ethnic groups that the report focused on, with the exception of Mexican children, who have consistently had lower prevalence of ADHD since 1998. Again, it's unclear whether that means this reflects a need for greater awareness and access to health care, or if children in this group are truly less likely to have the condition.

Whatever the underlying reasons for the condition's rise, a tremendous amount of money is being spent on health care and educational interventions directed at ADHD, not to mention other costs to parents. In 2005, using an estimated prevalence of only 5%, researchers estimated the societal cost of this mental illness to be about $42.5 billion.

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soundoff (579 Responses)
  1. magnum

    This is one example of how the US is awash in unneccessary presciption drugs, thanks to corporate giants. There are too many walking zombies in this country drugged out for no reason.

    August 20, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SurRy

      Right. Who gives a child with a developing brain psychotropic drugs? It's beyond me. The "family values" voters have fixed it so both parents must work outside the home to make ends meet. Perhaps if we actually valued families we would support them so children weren't raising themselves and needing medication to sit still in overcrowded classrooms.

      August 20, 2011 at 21:58 | Report abuse |
    • Grand Poobah

      One of the hardest things that make parenting a child with ADD so difficult, is having to listen to all the people who don't know anything ADD tell you what they think anyway.

      August 21, 2011 at 15:56 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      GP, you are right. I sympathize. Just ignore the idiots and do the best you can, based on your own knowledge and that of the doctors, teachers and others who are qualified to help you and your child.

      August 21, 2011 at 17:32 | Report abuse |
    • Ro

      GP and TTPS, you two hit the nail on the head. If some wants to comment, it should be someone who actually has ADHD or has a family member with it. A lot of idiots will comment like they know something.

      August 21, 2011 at 17:45 | Report abuse |
    • FC

      GB, you are absolutely right. One of the things I've found when talking to other parents of ADHD kids is that they do not generally tell others what they should do regarding treatment. We'll share the names of specialists and behavior modification techniques that have worked for our families, but rarely will an ADHD parent say "You must or must not do ______."

      I have an ADHD kid and it drives me crazy to hear people say things like "You just need to kick that kid's butt and get rid of the video games." We don't own any. Yes, that's right, our family of four has one PC and one cell phone. We maintain a very structured household routine; are very physically active; eat an organic, vegetable-based diet - much of it from our own garden; and ensure healthy sleep habits. But to hear others talk (out of their butts, I might add), his problems with attention must be the result of lax parenting, poor diet, and too much media. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      August 22, 2011 at 12:56 | Report abuse |
    • Lajos

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      November 16, 2012 at 01:15 | Report abuse |
  2. Roberto Valverde

    This can be prevented and RESOLVED totally.
    Medicines is a waste of MONEY, they don't solve anything and med are TOXIC.
    It is necessary to change the Health System in the World.
    All the Pharmaceutical Companies around the World are property of the VATICAN and Hospitals too.
    All the Medical Community is the BIG MAFIA and nothing of Illnesses can be solved with Meds.
    Visit: http://www.fundacionrobertovalverde.org and see what is the difference in Health Problem.

    August 20, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • didntthinkofthat

      in rely to medical community is the big mafia and nothing of illness can be solved with meds ... i was wondering why some of some big medical communities based proudly in meds seemed to look a lot like a take of godfather or something similar ... hmmmm .... some meds like garlic pills might work

      August 20, 2011 at 17:30 | Report abuse |
    • SurRy

      "Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs " by Melody Peterson. It's a must read!

      August 20, 2011 at 22:00 | Report abuse |
  3. Anon

    There is no such thing as ADHD. It's a concocted illness by psuedo-health professionals (psychology/psychiatry).

    August 20, 2011 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rocksor

      Troll Alert! Troll Alert!

      August 20, 2011 at 20:45 | Report abuse |
    • darkstar3000

      Agreed, we used to solve so-called ADHD with what they called an @$$-whooping. I don't recall anyone with attention problems when I was growing up, well not until they took butt-whooping out the schools and boy did I watch the crap hit the fan. ADHD is an excuse for being afraid to tell a child STFreakU or I'll beat that little @$$. ~former Early Intensive Intervention Officer for children with Autism and Cerebral Palsy.

      August 21, 2011 at 21:18 | Report abuse |
  4. themadtek

    Anyone who says ADHD is not real has either never had it or never known anyone who actually had it. There has been so many kids misdiagnosised that people feel this way. I have had it and my step son has it and for us it is VERY real.

    August 20, 2011 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hotlanta

      I agree with you. However the point is that there's no test that is 100% effective in diagnosing ADHD. Furthermore there are many conditions, both physiological and psychological that manifest themselves as symptoms of ADHD. As a result I am confident that some, if not most doctors, "write off the symptoms" as ADHD and prescribe otherwise harmful medication just to placate the parents.

      August 21, 2011 at 10:49 | Report abuse |
    • fred miller

      And it makes them so much easier to control...no need to parent...

      August 21, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
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      September 3, 2011 at 00:40 | Report abuse |
  5. Time Bandit

    What do you expect, chemicals on and in foods we eat. Chemicals in water and liquids we drink, chemicals in the air. We permit the importing of stuff from China and Mexico, they don't have the same health standards as we do. I am still convinced China is trying to kill our children: formaldehyde in childrens clothing, melamine in baby formula, lead paint on childrens toys. Children's toys made with Cadmium, this is what we get for sending jobs to China.

    August 20, 2011 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Laura Ingalls

      Agreed. Human bodies are not meant to ingest chemicals. There are consequences for eating processed crap – much like there are consequences for those who smoke cigarettes. Why people think it is any different is beyond me. Stop buying this garbage. Know that pharmaceutical companies and food companies and chemical companies all work together. And just because you ate Pop Tarts as a kid doesn't mean the same recipe is used today. The ingredient lists of processed food is FILLED with chemical junk that kills. It's easy to avoid so please take care of your family and clean out the pantry.

      August 20, 2011 at 22:28 | Report abuse |
    • mike

      if humans aren't meant you ingest chemicals then what are we ingesting? You are made up of chemicals...I suggest you take a chemistry course.

      August 21, 2011 at 21:55 | Report abuse |
    • Lynn

      You have a point, but why blame China for our terrible food supply? My brother was diagnosed 35 years ago with "hyperactivity" which I believe is what they called it before they called it ADHD. Back then the doctors told my mother to stop giving my brother candy and foods with artificial colors. She restricted his junk food intake and he was put on Ritalin. The changes she saw in him were so significant that he was able to sit and watch and entire 30 min. TV show without getting distracted. He stayed on it until he reached High School and today he's doing well. My infant son is on a 90% organic diet consisting of wholesome baby foods, fruit, vegetables and vitamin drops. I am so thankful that I live in a time when I at least have to option to give my baby organic products. I read the ingredients list of all packaged foods before I buy them and I reject a lot of products based on the ingredients. If everyone would do the same, the food industry would be forced to produce healthy food instead of cheap, overly processed, nutrient deficient junk. We need to stop treating our bodies like garbage cans and start demanding real, healthy, good tasting foods free of pesticides, food additives, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives!!

      August 21, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse |
  6. SurRy

    "Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs" by Melody Peterson. It's a must read!

    August 20, 2011 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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      November 16, 2012 at 01:42 | Report abuse |
  7. linda

    I live in southeast arkansas and the diagnosis of ADHD in children in one of the major sources of junkies obtaining adderall (may be mispelled) and other amphetemines. these people pass on how to get their kids diagnoses to their friends who in turn take them for a diagnosis creating a steady supply of legal drugs. most never even give their kid the pills

    August 20, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. steve19

    The issue of ADHD needs to be completely revisited. I am a school teacher who has taught thousands of students and other than kids with very severe disabilities (severe Down's, severe autism, etc.) I have only met one (he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome) who was actually incapable of paying attention in any situation. All people have attention spans of varying degrees, but with patience, interesting presentations, concentration and self-discipline practice, student classroom placement (up front and away from friends) students can learn without taking these potent drugs.

    August 21, 2011 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jjj4567

      I think that what you say is true and that we do not need to medicate as many of the children for ADHD and ADD as we do. I have been frustrated that the schools and teachers seem so quick to chose this option. My son required a classroom that gave him fewer distractions, and a school day with fewer transitions. He probably is less attentive than most children but under these conditions he gets his work done without causing a problem for the other students. To get the "special classroom" I had to just say no to drugs. I am frustrated that they felt they should start with drugs instead of a classroom environment that met his needs.

      August 22, 2011 at 00:00 | Report abuse |
  9. Santaren

    I rather see this as a Parents Deficit disorder from american people to cope with a normal dynamic condition from children, people not equipped very well now to endure any physical or emotional burdens, not equipped well to take care of themselves, just relying or wishing on externals to take care, say pharmaceuticals, daycares, government, anyone except themselves. ar

    August 21, 2011 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Katie

    NO ONE is researching any relationship between natural aligned posture vs. slouched, collapsed posture in children with ADHD, yet the alignment of working parts may have a direct correlation with how messages are transmitted to and from the brian. This amazing video gives very graphic information on this subject.


    August 21, 2011 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. james

    We spray herbicides on all of our fields before planting to eliminate any grasses or weeds from growing in the midst of our main crop. This has been going on for over 50 years. These herbicides get into our water supply, into the crops we eat, into all the animals we use for meat production – at the same time they spray pesticides to keep insects from eating the crops. This has been going on for the same about 50 years. Again getting into the crops we eat and the animals we use for meat production as well as into our water supply. At the same time ADHD has been growing by leaps and bounds. A correlation?

    August 21, 2011 at 09:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Retspool

    I signed up with ADHD at school cause i receive extra time on my finals and tests

    August 21, 2011 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kat

      That's what a bunch of my friends did too! I'm amazed to see it happens elsewhere.

      January 5, 2012 at 22:50 | Report abuse |
  13. Kitty1220

    A diagnosis of ADHD does not mean the child has to be medicated. My son has ADHD and I worked with his school to adjust the learning environment in a way that would allow him to work to the best of his ability. Children with ADHD need to learn how to deal/cope/live with it. Medicating them is just a band-aid to the problem, it doesn't allow them to learn how to live with it.

    August 21, 2011 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Cameron

    I have have had adhd ever since I was a child. But my mom didn't want me medicated. Through therapy and other techniques it did get better but I'm 26 almost 27 and it just wasn't going away and I was having trouble with my jobs so finally I decided to go on ritilan. I can tell you after it my life is changed. I don't have to litterally bite my tongue to get myself to stop talking or tell myself to shut up in my head. I just don't have the urge to talk as much. I don't have so many compulsive behaviors. I'm working on being able to read a whole book–as in actually finishing it. I do think psychiatric medication has its place.

    August 21, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jen

      I can completely understand that. I have a 7 year old who was diagnosed with ADHD. We haven't given him medication yet, because I think it could be damaging to a developing brain. I haven't ruled it out as an option as he gets older however. Also, I think that it doesn't have to be that dehabilitating of a condition. We've worked really well with his school and have all sorts of techniques that we use when it becomes an issue. But...it's not an issue every moment of every day. I fully expect my child to grow to be a productive and happy member of society.

      Also – to some of the other posters: I agree that some kids are misdiagnosed because of parents who don't want to parent, but don't dismiss every diagnosis as this.

      August 21, 2011 at 14:06 | Report abuse |
  15. Robert C

    From my experience of treating many children that have been labeled ADHD I have found a common correlation with the quality of their diet. Children whom have had almost unlimited access to candy bars, artificial sweeteners, foods high in sugar, basically junk food, have a limited ability to hold their attention. The Mexican children not only eat lesser amounts of these expensive junk foods but, they also have a much higher concentration of beans and rice in their diet. Yes, it's also possible their are other components to ADHD like chemicals, vaccinations, mercury etc but lets just look at the quality of food we eat every day as that is the source of what builds and repairs the body and and mind.

    August 21, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jen

      Please don't dismiss ADHD as too much sugar. I've always paid attention to the amount of sugar in various food and don't give my son fruit roll-ups, sugary cereal, pop-tarts and other junk. He's still got ADHD. I do think sugar can exacerbate his condition however.

      August 21, 2011 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
  16. Lori

    Wow, behind the times much CDC?

    I am a child welfare worker – practically every kid that ends up in foster care is labeled "ADHD" at some point, just as many of their parents are "bi-polar." This has been going on for years. It's a joke, and a disgrace.

    Let's all take a pill for being sad, or twitchy legs, or heartburn, or whatever complaint we have. It will make us all better! And by all better I mean complacent, docile, mindless idiots as "they" flush our lives down the toilet.

    August 21, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I wish there were a mechanism for reporting you to your state's child welfare authorities. You have no business in this field and shouldn't be allowed to remain in your job.

      August 21, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse |
  17. Bel

    All of the people who respond negatively to the use of drug therapy to treat ADHD obviously have no experience with a child with ADHD, nor have personal experience as the one with a diagnosis of ADHD. Try living in the shoes of the parents, teachers, and the children affected before "putting your 2 cents in".

    August 21, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lori

      You're missing the larger picture. For every child that actually DOES legitimately have ADHD, there are many, many times more who don't, just labeled that because mommy doesn't actually want to have to do the hard part of being mommy. And doctors are MORE than willing to write a script for it.

      August 21, 2011 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Lori, produce proof that this is the case. Cite your sources of information.

      August 21, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse |
  18. P. Work

    From the article: "ADHD is a specific condition involving lack of focus and impulsive behavior, but there could be other reasons for similar symptoms." Yeah, like perhaps a lack of discipline, parental involvement, and a stable family environment. I am sick and tired of hearing that every time a kid has a problem, he/she must have ADHD.
    My wife and I have been married 32 years and raised three great kids. Two are Navy officers, one is a realtor. We worked at our marriage and raising the kids. We stayed on top of them, gave them the tools they needed, and had high expectations of them – and they knew it. I'm not saying that ADHD truly is not a problem for some kids, but I increasingly think it's an excuse for lack of parenting for others. No whining! Having kids = responsibility. Don't want to be responsible for kids? Don't have them!

    August 21, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JellyRoll

      You are just lucky.Your kids didn't have to deal with ADHD. My son IS and it is REAL. We parent him, he's very intelligent and really brilliant, but he has trouble focusing and remembering what is required of him. He is participating in a study of the brain as it relates to ADHD. They are finding that these children's brains are wired differently than the non-ADHD brain. They think in a different way and they processes information differently than the "normal" child. These studies are finding that these kids have few neural pathways making the connection to the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that "focuses" one's attention. IT"s REAL AND IT DOESN'T HAVE TO DO WITH PARENTING STYLE!!!!!

      August 21, 2011 at 19:28 | Report abuse |
  19. Lee

    I have been practicing school psychology for almost 30 years. During my doctoral training, as well as via extensive post-doctoral continuing education, I developed considerable expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. Thinking that my knowledge and skills in the area should be put to good use, I began offering comprehensive assessments of children thought to have ADHD by teachers and parents in my school district. The evaluations were quite comprehensive. They took an extraordinary amount of professional time and energy to do correctly. However, this was the only way that I was comfortable offering such a service since my training had made it abundantly clear that many conditions, both biological and environmental, could cause children to be inattentive, impulsive, and restless. Such conditions had to be ruled out prior to reaching the conclusion that a child had ADHD. To do otherwise would have been both negligent and incompetent. As you might imagine, there were many times that my conclusion was that the referred child did not have the suspected disorder, but instead was experiencing behavioral issues due to something else, e.g., depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or an extremely chaotic home environment with a historical lack of parental direction. There were also times when I concluded that none of these problems were present, and that instead, what was perceived as a clinical level of inattention on the part of teachers and/or parents was due to ignorance about the normal range of behavioral development in children. This orientation did not make me very popular among those two groups. The referrals gradually diminished, and the parents went elsewhere for quick and dirty assessments that were almost always followed by a script for Ritalin or some other ADHD medication. My impression? Some children really do have ADHD and are helped immensely by the right medication. However, many, many adults who must manage children, both in school and at home, want a magic bullet to make the child easier to deal with, and they don't have much patience for professionals who insist on taking an objective look at the issue. Many physicians, psychologists and other clinicians are all too willing to go along with this, and a diagnosis and script then follow. In analyzing reasons for the increase in ADHD prevalence rates, this phenomenon, as distasteful as it may be, deserves serious scrutiny.

    August 21, 2011 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. bhearts

    How about we let our children take recess and exercise a little. How many studies to we see that boys, in particular, need the ability to move and burn off excess energy. This supports the time they are required to sit and listen to teachers. Of course it is easier to say all children should just be quiet, sit still for 8 hours a day and do their homework. Our education system is becoming worthless.

    August 21, 2011 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nobody is expecting young children to 'sit still for 8 hours a day.'

      August 22, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse |
  21. Kevin Kunkel

    ADHD is a myth. It's a ready excuse for parents who don't want to parent and teachers who don't want to teach. "ADHD" is nothing more than a poor diet. Get kids off processed food and sugary cereals and the ADHD goes away. There is no diagnostic test for ADHD, it is diagnosed by observations and interpretation of those observations. NO ONE SHOULD LET THEIR CHILDREN BE PUT ON RITALIN OR ADDERALL. EVER!!!!

    August 21, 2011 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, what no one should do is listen to some idiot on an anonymous board and take his nonsensical maundering for any sort of solid understanding. You have no business telling anyone what he or she should do.

      August 22, 2011 at 08:36 | Report abuse |
  22. Anna

    I work at a college health center & the ADHD meds are the only meds that the kids show up religiously for...more than their asthma meds, birth control pills, immunizations, TB meds, you name it....The last time I saw this behavior was community health and the scheduled druge like Vicodin & Percocet....There is something very addictive about Ritalin & similar meds.

    August 22, 2011 at 03:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. David

    90% of kids diagnosed with ADHD just need a parent to kick their a$$ when they deserve it.

    August 22, 2011 at 04:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And you, like most of the morons here, hold that opinion with absolutely no basis in fact. Produce proof that your assertions are anything but manure.

      August 22, 2011 at 08:33 | Report abuse |
  24. WellnessDrive

    There are many studies that show natural supplements – such as Pycnogenol, Omega III, and vitamins can help reduce ADHD naturally – No side effects. Of-course, a healthy diet is a must.

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    August 22, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      This is spam and has been reported.

      August 22, 2011 at 19:22 | Report abuse |
    • Imma

      An executive suamrmy is the first part of a management report. In accordance with its name, it is designed to summarize the key findings and recommendations for executives who are too busy to study the entire report. We recommend that you write the body of the report, before you begin the Executive Summary. Most management reports end with a series of findings, options and recommendations (or conclusions, for investigative reports).After the main body of the report is complete, then outline the Executive Summary. On effective way to draft the outline in a series of bullet points, in which each bullet equates to a single sentence or idea from each section of the report. Then expand each bullet point into a complete sentence.Finally, you should place your Executive Summary at the very beginning of your report, rather than at the end. You are correct in assuming that both the Executive Summary and the concluding paragraph of your report are very similar in content: nonetheless, the Executive Summary belongs at the beginning of the report, in order to serve its purpose as providing a suamrmy for busy executives.Hope this helps.

      November 16, 2012 at 01:21 | Report abuse |
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  26. D

    Nice article!
    For anyone wanting to read or blog about other mental disorders such as depression and its treatment, check out: http://theantidepressed.blogspot.com/

    September 6, 2011 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Melissa

    It's easy for people to say something isn't real when they don't have to deal with the overwhelming reality of it in every aspect of their lives every minute of the day. ADHD is a problem. It may be misdiagnosed at times, but it is also under diagnosed at other times. Higher rates of diagnosis doesn't necessarily mean that more people are all of the sudden developing ADHD, it more than likely means it is being caught at a younger age more often. Not treating ADHD often results in the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with the frustration, depression and other problems it can cause. I'm glad these kids are getting the help they need early. Maybe it will spare them some heartache in the future.

    September 15, 2011 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
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