New ADHD Guidelines Expand Recommended Age Range for Treatment

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released new guidelines for diagnosing and treating children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Included in the guidelines are diagnostic workups for children as young as four, as well as recommendations on the use of ADHD medications in high school-age teenagers.

The previous guidelines issued a decade ago only applied to children aged 6 through 12 since at that time, there a was a lack of research in preschoolers and teens, according to Dr. Mark Wolraich, chair of the guideline committee.

Besides expanding the age range, "we wanted to strongly remind physicians that this is a chronic illness," said Wolraich, "and if anything we've fallen down in the care of children" who, once they reach high school, stop taking their medications only to see a return of symptoms.

(Wolraich, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, has served as a consultant to several pharmaceutical firms that manufacture drugs for the treatment of ADHD. Most of the 15 members of the guideline writing committee had no conflicts.)

An estimated 5 percent of American school-age children have been diagnosed with ADHD or its cousin, attention deficit disorder, and questions have been raised concerning the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of the disorders in those with mild behavioral problems that fall into the normal range of behavior. Two studies last year found that the youngest kids in the class -- who are more likely be less mature than their peers -- were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

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