More ADHD kids given drugs than therapy

Few children who take medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also undergo behavioural therapy, and the rates vary six-fold across counties in the United States, a new study finds.

Medication alone can manage symptoms for many children with ADHD, but some do better if they also receive behavioural therapy (psychotherapy), the Rand Corp. researchers noted.

The researchers analysed data in more than 1,500 counties across the United States that included more than 300,000 privately insured children, aged 17 and younger, who were prescribed ADHD drugs. Less than a quarter of them received any psychotherapy in the same year they took ADHD medications; 13 percent had at least four therapy visits, and seven percent had at least eight therapy sessions.


Read: ADHD kids are treated with unapproved antipsychotics

As little as 10% receive therapy
In some counties, fewer than 10 percent of kids taking ADHD drugs got behavioural therapy, according to the study, which was published as a research letter in the Sept. 22 issue of the journal JAMA Paediatrics.

Those who lived in counties with fewer licensed psychologists were less likely to receive psychotherapy while taking ADHD drugs, the data showed. But even in some counties where the number of psychologists were the same, the rates varied.

In California's Sacramento County, almost half the kids with ADHD received therapy along with drugs, compared to only about 20 percent of those in Florida's Miami-Dade County, the researchers noted.

"Treatment of ADHD in children generates lots of controversy, primarily because of potential for overuse and abuse of stimulant medications," study author Dr. Walid Gellad, an adjunct scientist at Rand, said in a news release from the non-profit research organization.

"We wanted to find out among those who receive ADHD medications, how many are also receive billed psychotherapy services? The answer is few, but it actually depends on where you live," Gellad said.

Read more:
ADHD is over-diagnosed
ADHD medications won't stunt kids growth
Memory training helps kids with ADHD

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