ADHD is a common health condition characterized by inattention, impulsivity and sometimes hyperactivity. The number of diagnoses of ADHD in the United States continues to rise. In 2003, studies showed that 7.8 percent of children were diagnosed with ADHD, in 2011 that number rose to 11 percent according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is “one of the most researched areas in child and adolescent mental health” according to John Hopkins Medicine. The past year has not been an exception, with the results from numerous studies released every month. The following are 9 studies recently released or completed.
The good news is that school districts are more proactive at identifying academic impairment in high school students with ADHD, even so many teens are “falling through the cracks” according to the lead author of this study, Desiree W. Murray. She believes part of the problem is that schools are putting into place accommodations that are not evidence based, such as giving extra time to complete tests. Strategies that have been been proven to work include teaching self-advocacy skills, self-management skills and study and organizational skills.
Researchers at Rutger’s University exposed mice to the pesticide pyrethroid in utero and through breast feeding. The mice developed symptoms similar to ADHD: hyperactivity, working memory deficits, attention deficits and impulsive behavior. These behaviors continued even after the pesticides were no longer in their systems. The lead author of the study, James Richardson believes the study “provides strong evidence…that exposure to pyrethroid pesticides…may be a risk factor for ADHD.”
While we know that ADHD impacts school and work, we don’t usually see it as a cause of premature death. A study completed in Denmark, however, found that people with ADHD were are a higher risk of dying prematurely, with unnatural deaths, especially accidents, causing the increase. Women with ADHD were more likely to die prematurely than men with ADHD.
While this study doesn’t answer the question of why those with ADHD are more at risk of being abused in childhood, it does bring to light some important information. One finding was that women with ADHD were more than twice as likely to report having experienced physical abuse during childhood as those who did not have ADHD. This leads researchers to wonder whether the trauma from abuse causes symptoms similar to ADHD or if ADHD puts children at a higher risk of being abused.
If you have ADHD, there is a good chance that you also have restless leg syndrome - that insistent feeling that you must move your legs. This feeling can be accompanied by pain, throbbing and other sensations. It often interferes with getting a good night’s sleep as the symptoms mostly occur at night, while you are at rest. Researchers reviewed previous studies and found that 44 percent of those with ADHD also had restless leg syndrome as opposed to 10 percent of those without ADHD.
The tech firm Akili Interactive Labs is working on creating a video game, called Project: EVO, which can help treat symptoms of ADHD. According to the company, children with ADHD who played the game five days a week, one-half hour each day, had improved attention.
We know that having ADHD puts a child at a higher risk of being bullied, but a new study found that children who take medication for ADHD are at an even higher risk. The study didn’t look at the reasons, however, the researchers speculate it could be an attempt to force or coerce children and teens to share or sell their medication.
A meta-analysis of previous studies on the use of methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta), was moderately effective in managing or reducing symptoms of ADHD, general behavior and quality of life. They also found that children who took this medication had reduced appetites and trouble sleeping. Because the benefits were only “moderate,” the researchers urged doctors and parents to carefully weigh the risks and benefits before deciding on medication for their child.
Nervousness or anxiety have always been a concerning side effect when using stimulant medications, however, a new study disputes the previously accepted side effect. According to researchers, who reviewed 23 previous studies, stimulant medications might actually help to reduce anxiety. They hypothesize that children feel better and more confident when they were better able to manage symptoms of ADHD, thereby reducing anxiety levels.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.