New research in ADD/ADHD

Over the past several years we have come a long way in the understanding and treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD).

After years of controversy and confusion, it is now widely accepted among medical professionals that this is a condition affecting a large number of children and adults. While many once considered ADD/ADHD to be primarily a disorder of childhood, we now know that most people do not grow out of it once they reach adulthood.

Many continue to suffer with symptoms and deal with marked impairments in daily functioning as a result of unrecognized or untreated ADD/ADHD in adulthood. Most doctors now recognize that this is unnecessary and that effective treatments are available for patients of all ages with this disorder.

Treatments are also getting better as we continue to discover newer and more unique medications for ADD/ADHD. Drug manufacturers are starting to move away from simply creating more stimulant medications and are discovering new compounds that may work more effectively or help those who can't take stimulant medications or don't respond well to these standard treatments.

In order to continue developing better treatments for this potentially debilitating condition, we need to continue gaining better understanding of the disorder itself. Some new studies are bringing us forward in this pursuit.

Although it has always been thought that ADD/ADHD is affected by both genetic and environmental factors, a new study conducted in the Netherlands has attempted to further quantify these contributions.

This study examined many seven-year-old twins from the country's twin database. Results showed a prevalence rate of four per cent - confirming other estimates of the prevalence of ADD/ADHD in the general population.

Genetic analysis in this study showed that the condition is predominantly due to genetic factors while environmental factors are present to a lesser degree.

Another interesting fact observed in this study was that girls were just as likely as boys to meet the criteria for ADD/ADHD. Typically, this has been thought of as a disorder that affects more boys than girls. Levels of impairment between genders were not compared in this study.

Another very important new study in ADD/ADHD has examined parents of children with the disorder for coexisting psychiatric conditions.

In this study, parents who also had ADD/ADHD themselves were significantly more likely to be unskilled workers and less likely to have a college degree than parents without the condition.

Further, those with ADD/ADHD were found to have higher than normal prevalence of other psychiatric problems during their lifetime. Almost 90% had at least one and more than half had at least two other psychiatric disorders compared with 64% and 27% respectively among the parents without ADD/ADHD.

A third study compared different treatment types for their effectiveness and cost. This study found that using medication to treat ADD/ADHD is almost as effective as combined medication and therapy and is more cost effective in routine treatment for children with this condition - especially if there are no coexisting disorders involved.

Behavioural treatment with a therapist costs roughly six times as much as medical treatment and is often recommended in combination with medication. This study showed that the combination is only slightly more effective than using medication alone.

In actual practice, behavioural methods are used primarily when there are other disorders along with the ADD/ADHD.

Research into all areas of attention deficit disorder continues to move forward and bring hope for new effective treatments to complement the ones we currently use. If you or a loved one experience difficulties in life because of attention and impulse control problems, speak to your doctor. ADD/ADHD is treatable.


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