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One in 13 US School Kids Takes Medication For Emotional or Behavioral Difficulties

Update Date: Apr 25, 2014 09:47 AM EDT

Around 7 percent of American schoolchildren are taking at least one medication for emotional or behavioral difficulties, according to a new government report. 

The report added that the medications were effective in children as more than half of the parents confirmed. 

"We can't advise parents on what they should do, but I think it's positive that over half of parents reported that medications helped 'a lot,' " said report author LaJeana Howie, a statistical research scientist at the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, in the press release. 

Researchers said more than 80 percent of the children with emotional or behavioral difficulties were diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at some point in their lives. 

"Although the authors don't really talk about the diagnoses, ADHD is likely the most overwhelming diagnosis. Oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety and depression are other likely diagnoses," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, in New Hyde Park, in the press release.

Researchers based their findings on data from the study conducted by National Health Interview Survey that continually collects information about health and health care in the United States. 

The study noted that significantly more boys than girls were given medication - 9.7 percent of boys compared to nearly 5 percent of girls. 

"There may be parenting challenges, such as more single-parent households, medications may be more available than access to behavioral treatments, there may be more logistical issues with nonpharmaceutical interventions, like getting time off from work," Adesman said. "Many more families have access to prescription medications than to non-pharmaceutical interventions. There's a lack of mental health treatment parity.

"It's encouraging that children who are identified as taking prescription medications are benefiting from those medications," Adesman added in the press release. "There are nonpharmaceutical treatments for virtually all psychiatric diagnoses in children. For households where a child has significant emotional or behavioral difficulties, counseling, behavior management and some forms of psychotherapy can be helpful as well."

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