What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which is a chronic psychiatric behavioural disorder that manifests as a persistent pattern of inattention and or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.37
Is ADHD a real condition?
Yes ADHD is a real and treatable medical disorder recognised in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10)38, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V-TR®). The recognition of ADHD as a serious medical condition continues to grow by physician groups and government health agencies around the world.
Is ADHD that common?
ADHD in one of the most common psychiatric disorders in children and Adolescents.39 Worldwide prevalence is estimated at 5.3 per cent 11 (with large ariability) and in the UK, ADHD has a national prevalence figure of 3.6 per cent in boys and 0.85 per cent in girls between 5 and 15 years.31
How is ADHD diagnosed?
There is no single objective test to determine if someone has ADHD, instead a comprehensive evaluation is conducted. This evaluation may include a physical examination, psychological testing, review of school and medical records, as well as parent and teacher-rated behaviour scales and parent and child interviews.46,47
What are the causes of ADHD?
Although the exact origin of ADHD is unknown, scientists speculate the disorder may be caused by a combination of the following factors:
- 1. Neurotransmitter function - ADHD is thought to be caused by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and noradrenaline, which are believed to play an important role in the ability to focus and pay attention to tasks.41,42
- 2. Genetics - Research strongly suggests that ADHD tends to run in families.43,45
- 3. Environment - Certain external factors such as smoking during pregnancy or complications from pregnancy, delivery or infancy may contribute to ADHD.45
Surely ADHD symptoms are just normal child behaviours?
Nearly everyone shows signs of these behaviours at times but in order to be diagnosed with ADHD, a comprehensive evaluation has to be conducted and a person has to demonstrate some of the behaviours early in life (before age seven), symptoms have to continue for at least six months and some impairment must be present in at least two settings. 37
Is ADHD just a case of bad parenting and/or naughty children?
No, ADHD is a real and treatable medical disorder recognised in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10)38 and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V-TR®).37 Whilst the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, research strongly suggests that ADHD runs in families,44,45 and that the disorder may be caused in part by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters which are believed to play an important role in the ability to focus and pay attention to tasks.42,43 Parents are often relieved to receive a diagnosis to discover that neither they nor their child is at fault.
Can ADHD be cured?
No, unfortunately there is currently no ‘cure’ for ADHD however there are accepted treatments that specifically target its symptoms and treatment plans can be individualised accordingly. Treatments include educational approaches, psychological or behavioural modification and medication.46,47 In a long-term (14mths) National Institute of Health sponsored study, a treatment approach that combined medication and behavioural modifications was found to be most effective.48
How is ADHD treated?
There are accepted treatments that specifically target its symptoms and treatment plans can be individualised accordingly. Treatments include educational approaches, psychological or behavioural modification and medication.46,47 In a long-term (14mths) National Institute of Health sponsored study, a treatment approach that combined medication and behavioural modifications was found to be most effective.48
How effective is treatment?
A specialist psychiatrist, paediatrician or other appropriately qualified healthcare professional with training and expertise in the diagnosis of ADHD can diagnose ADHD in school-age children using standard criteria and rating scales. Once diagnosed, there is no ‘quick fix’ for children with ADHD but the good news is that the condition is manageable with a combination of regimes that can include behaviour management, cognitive therapies and medication.31
What are the problems associated with ADHD drug treatment? (i.e. addiction, side effects)
As with all medications, there are risks and benefits. When used as prescribed, medications for ADHD are well tolerated and effective in controlling the symptoms of the disorder. For an ADHD medicine to be approved for use in a market, clinical trials have to demonstrate that the medicine is well tolerated and effective in the treatment of ADHD.
Do you think children should be prescribed drugs?
The course of treatment depends on each individual case, the severity of the condition and the age of the child. Experts tend to agree that the most effective treatment is a combination of behavioural and pharmacological therapy together although drug treatment is not indicated as the first-line treatment for all school-age children and young people with ADHD.31
The NHS cannot currently afford cancer drugs, why should 'naughty children' be prioritised?
ADHD is a real and treatable medical disorder recognised in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10)38 and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR®).37 Children suffering from ADHD are entitled to receive treatment for their condition to help improve their quality of life.
In terms of cost, improved diagnosis and access to appropriate support and treatment would be cost-effective and could have a radical impact on education, criminal justice, family welfare, healthcare and anti-social behaviour.
How much does it cost to treat a child with ADHD?
According to NICE Guidelines published in September 2008, the total costs per annum per child with ADHD is as follows:31
- Combined therapy £1,322
- Medication £1,093
- Behavioural therapy £907
What are the knock-on effects of undiagnosed ADHD?
The knock on effects of poorly managed or even unidentified ADHD, most notably the potential decline into the criminal justice system, highlight that early intervention is essential.
Additionally, according to NICE, ADHD is associated with a significant financial and emotional cost to the healthcare system, education services, carers and families and society as a whole. Providing effective intervention could improve the quality of life of individuals with ADHD, their carers and their families, while also reducing the financial implications and psychological burden of ADHD to society.31
Do children grow out of ADHD?
Although many people tend to think of ADHD as a childhood disorder, up to 65 percent of children with ADHD may still exhibit symptoms into adulthood.39 What may happen over time is that people with ADHD learn coping mechanisms in order to manage their symptoms better.
Is labelling children with ADHD negative for children?
No, detailed research and studies highlight the knock-on effects of unidentified or poorly managed ADHD. The good news is that the condition is manageable with a combination of regimes that can include behaviour management, cognitive therapies and medication.31