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ADHD Effects don't Fade with Age: Study

Update Date: Mar 04, 2013 04:40 AM EST

ADHD isn't just a condition that leads to a troubled childhood, but also causes a lot of problems in adulthood. A recent study conducted by researchers from Boston Children's Hospital and Mayo Clinic have found that ADHD increases the risk of the child growing up to have mental disorders like depression and anxiety and being a delinquent.

ADHD or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is characterized by the inability in paying attention, controlling behavior and being overtly active, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The condition is rapidly increasing in the U.S., with one out of every 10 children showing symptoms of ADHD. The condition can't be cured, but can be successfully controlled.

The present study was based on the medical records available from 5,718 children, which included 367 who were diagnosed with ADHD. Of the 367 children, researchers followed 232 participants for the study. Nearly three quarters of the children with ADHD had received treatments for the condition.

Study results showed that some 27 percent of children who were diagnosed with ADHD had symptoms of the condition in adulthood. More than 50 percent of the study group had some other psychiatric disorder like substance abuse/dependence, antisocial personality disorder, hypomanic episodes, generalized anxiety and major depression, while just 35 percent of people in the control group (children without ADHD) had these disorders.

In the study group 2.7 percent of children with ADHD had been incarcerated, researchers found.

"Only 37.5 percent of the children we contacted as adults were free of these really worrisome outcomes. That's a sobering statistic that speaks to the need to greatly improve the long-term treatment of children with ADHD and provide a mechanism for treating them as adults," said William Barbaresi, M.D., of Boston Children's Hospital, lead author of the study.

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.                                

Previous studies have shown that children diagnosed with ADHD between ages 5 and 12 years are more likely to be involved in a criminal activity when they are older, when compared to other children. Children with ADHD are also more likely to develop conduct and antisocial personality disorders.

"We suffer from the misconception that ADHD is just an annoying childhood disorder that's overtreated. This couldn't be further from the truth. We need to have a chronic disease approach to ADHD as we do for diabetes. The system of care has to be designed for the long haul," said  Barbaresi.

Researchers in the present study collected data from population in Rochester, Minn., which was largely middle-class and heterogeneous. Children with ADHD had access to better health and education. "One can argue that this is potentially a best-case scenario," Barbaresi said in a news release. "Outcomes could be worse in socioeconomically challenged populations."

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