CDC looks at hyperactivity as a public health issue
September 24, 1999
Web posted at: 3:42 p.m. EDT (1942 GMT)
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood learning disorders. Because so many Americans suffer from ADHD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Education and the top ADHD researchers gathered in Atlanta this week to discuss what is known about this mental disorder and what needs to be done in the future.
It is estimated that 3 to 5 percent of school-age children suffer from ADHD. The Department of Education estimates ADHD costs taxpayers $3 billion a year in special education services alone.
CNN's Dr. Steve Salvatore reports that many adults suffer from attention disorder and can benefit from established treatment.
There are also estimated to be 2 to 5 million adults affected with ADHD.
Some were diagnosed in their 60s and 70s. Since ADHD was not recognized in adults until recently, many were misdiagnosed with depression, anxiety and character disorders.
Thirty to 70 percent of children with ADHD continue to have symptoms into adulthood, according to Dr. Lenard Adler, a specialist in adults with ADHD.
For all ages, Ritalin, one of several stimulant drugs used to control inattention and hyperactivity, continues to be the mainstay of treatment. But questions about the safety of Ritalin and risks of long-term use remain unanswered. Doctors say counseling and support groups also must play a role in therapy.
Consensus is growing among researchers that the disorder is a major health concern.
ADHD is a new topic for the CDC, which is charged with monitoring such public health threats as flu outbreaks and AIDS. The growing concern that ADHD is a major public health problem, and not just for children, has brought it to the agency's attention.
According to Stephen Hinshaw of the University of California at Berkeley, ADHD affects "the family, the school system, the peer system, and as the child progresses through development to other systems of care, juvenile justice, health maintenance organizations, the kind of benefits they provide and employers."
There is evidence that people with ADHD are less likely to complete school and have limited work options. Accidental injuries, substance abuse and arrests tend to be higher among those diagnosed with ADHD.
Ritalin is the most common treatment for ADHD.
Doctors don't yet know how to predict which children with ADHD may continue to have the disorder into adulthood. Also unknown is the cause of the disorder. While researchers know genetics play a role, they do not know how ADHD is triggered.
"We have to find out if it's exposure to smoking during pregnancy, or early experiences, exposure to lead, these are all potential factors that we have some inkling of, but we don't know how they interact with genetic predispositions," said Dr. Peter Jensen of Columbia University.
Understanding those interactions may lead to ways of preventing this disorder.
Medical Correspondents Rhonda Rowland and Dr. Steve Salvatore contributed to this report.
Dr. Michael Gordon on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
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ADHD may be overdiagnosed, study says
September 1, 1999
Researchers learn how Ritalin works to calm hyperactivity
January 14, 1999
Could your child have ADHD?
July 9, 1999
Conference examines diagnosis, treatment of attention deficit disorder
November 18, 1998
Group issues guidelines for monitoring Ritalin in children
November 9, 1998
Researchers: Fat in the diet may affect mental ability
September 4, 1998
Diagnosing hyperactive children is tricky
September 15, 1997
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Department of Education
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