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Younger Students In Class Twice Likely To Be Medicated With ADHD Drugs: Are They Just Immature?

Update Date: Jan 23, 2017 08:20 AM EST

Children who are younger are more likely to be prescribed medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than their older classmates, a new study has found.

A large-scale study by researchers at the Curtin University, has found that school children aged 6 to 10 years old were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and given prescribed drugs. This means if they are younger, born in the last month of the school intake, than their classmates.

The team of researchers analyzed data from more than 311,000 Australian school children. They found that the month in which the children are born affects their chances of being diagnosed and treated for ADHD.

About one in 50 of the children, or nearly 6,000, were on ADHD medications, with boys three times as likely to be on the pills as girls, the study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found.

"Whether it's a high-prescribing place like the U.S. and Canada or a low-prescribing place like Taiwan and Australia, we're seeing the same pattern of younger children being medicated for ADHD," Martin Whitely, study lead author, told the Huffington Post Australia.

"It indicates just a dodgy diagnosis," he added.

Are They Just Immature?

The researchers said the findings raised concerns some of the younger children in the class may have been misdiagnosed and may not have ADHD. Dr. Whitely said one of the explanations would be that teachers may provide evidence of ADHD as they assess the behavior of kids in class, mistaking age-related immaturity for a mental health disorder.

"Allowing parents to decide when their child is ready for school could prevent misdiagnosis," Dr. Whitely said as reported by ABC News Australia.

What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder characterized by an ongoing pattern of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity that alters one's functioning or development.

Children with this disorder may show signs of inattention, when he or she wanders off task, has difficulty sustaining focus and would become disorganized. They may also show hyperactivity or move about constantly and impulsivity, which means showing hasty actions that occur in the moment without thinking about them.

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