ADHD Drugs Help Boost Children's Grades

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By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
Friday, September 21, 2007; 12:00 AM

FRIDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can perform better at school if placed on long-term drug therapy, a new study suggests.

"This is the first study that shows that taking stimulants for ADHD improves long-term school performance," said lead researcher Dr. William Barbaresi, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "This includes reading achievement, being absent from school and being retained in a grade -- stimulant treatment was associated with better outcomes," he said.

Based on the findings, stimulant medication needs to be considered for every child with ADHD, Barbaresi believes.

"We can make that recommendation now on the basis of long-term improvement in the ways children's lives turn out, not just on the desire to control ADHD behavior symptoms," he said.

A companion study by the same group of researchers finds that children with ADHD are at heightened risk of lowered reading scores, absenteeism, repeating a grade, and dropping out of school.

Both papers are published in the September edition of theJournal of Development & Behavioral Pediatrics.

Experts estimate that in the United States almost 2 million children -- or about 3 percent to 5 percent of young children in the country -- have ADHD. ADHD affects a child's ability to focus and to control impulsive behaviors.

In the first study, Barbaresi's team followed more than 5,700 children from birth until they were 18 years old. Among these children, 277 boys and 93 girls were diagnosed with ADHD.

The Mayo team found that treatment with prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin, was associated with improved long-term academic success of children with ADHD.

Children taking stimulants usually began taking them in elementary school and continued on the medication for almost three years -- about 30.4 months.

By age 13, those taking medication had improved reading scores compared with children with ADHD who didn't receive the drugs, the researchers found. Furthermore, those children taking the highest doses had the most improved reading scores, Barbaresi's group added.

Children treated with medication also were less likely to be absent from school, and the longer they took the drugs, the less absenteeism was seen. In addition, children with ADHD who received stimulants were 1.8 times less likely to be held back a grade than children with ADHD who were not receiving the treatment.


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