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ADHD Afflicts One in Five American Teenagers

Update Date: Apr 01, 2013 10:32 AM EDT

A recent study revealed the rising number of children being diagnosed with autism in the United States. This increasing number seems to be part of the trend toward more diagnoses of learning disorders. A new report using data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that one in five teenage boys have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This new statistic reiterates the controversy behind doctors and the possibility of over diagnosing and over prescribing children. Regardless of whether or not the children need the medications for ADHD, the new statistic is raising alarm and concern over the growing number of disorders that affect children and teenagers.

The researchers of the study estimated that 6.4 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD at least once throughout their childhood. The new number of children with ADHD, ranging from four to 17-years-old, represents a 16 percent increase from 2007's number and a 53 percent increase within the past decade. The study also looked into the number of prescriptions and found that roughly two-thirds of the children diagnosed with ADHD today are taking some sort of medication, such as Ritalin or Adderall. These stimulants have been known to improve the attention span of these children dramatically, but can also have serious side effects, such as addiction and anxiety.

"Those are astronomical numbers. I'm floored," commented Dr. William Graf, a professor from Yale University. Graf is also a pediatric neurologist in New Haven, CT. "Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy."

The new statistics came from an earlier and larger CDC study, conducted from February 2011 to June 2012 that focused on children's health. The CDC surveyed over 76,000 parents via landlines or cellphones and is currently compiling the data into useful information. This study that revealed the new numbers behind ADHD was presented by the New York Times, which received a part of the raw data from the CDC.

Not only is this increasing number frightening for some doctors and researchers, the fear that more and more children would be diagnosed and subsequently prescribed with medication is very real as well since the American Psychiatric Association announced that it plans on expanding the diagnosis process for ADHD. The new guidelines would make it easier for children and teenagers to be diagnosed with the disorder and get treatment that might not necessarily be vital or beneficial for the patients. The presence of stimulants within the academic arena has become more common due to the fact that healthy children are turning to the drugs for an added academic boost. This trend can lead to deadly drug addictions for children.

"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," the CDC director, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden stated.

This new number stresses the importance behind the process of diagnosing and prescribing young adults, and suggests that certain guidelines need to be revised in order to help fight drug abuse and other complications from these stimulants. 

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