New York: About 6.4 million children have received diagnosis for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at some point — an increase of 16 percent since 2007 and 53 percent in the past decade — according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One in five high school boys and 11percent of all schoolkids in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD, the CDC data revealed.
The data also showed that two-thirds of kids who are diagnosed are prescribed stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin, the New York Daily News reported.
The findings come from a cellphone and landline survey of more than 76,000 parents between February 2011 and June 2012.
ADHD is characterized by difficulty paying attention, maintaining focus on tasks and controlling impulsive behaviours. Other symptoms include frequent daydreaming, squirming or fidgeting, and talking out of turn.
It is usually diagnosed in childhood, though it can continue into adulthood, and boys are more frequently diagnosed than girls.
Children``s health experts reacted to the new CDC data with surprise and concern.
“Those are astronomical numbers. I’m floored,” Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist in New Haven and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine, told the New York Times, which compiled and analyzed the data.
Experts said that some parents might push for the diagnosis because they see ADHD as a problem that can be fixed with medication.
Dr. Xavier Castellanos, professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Child Study Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, said he was not shocked by the new statistics but that they do not tell the whole story.
"Many of these kids probably do have ADHD, but my guess is that in some cases it is not the most appropriate or fitting diagnosis and that some things are being left out," he told the Daily News.
Diagnosing ADHD remains a subjective process, Castellanos said. There is currently no test to diagnose it, "so there``s always some educated guesswork involved."
What the new statistics do tell us is that a substantial number of kids are struggling, regardless of their diagnosis, Castellanos said.
The misuse of ADHD prescription drugs is a growing concern, CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said.
“We need to ensure balance. The right medications for ADHD, given to the right people, can make a huge difference. Unfortunately, misuse appears to be growing at an alarming rate,” Frieden told the Times.