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Major study finds that ADHD is underdiagnosed in children

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Signposts for ADHD include short attention spans, impulsivity and hyperactivity

A new study has found that there may be thousands of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who are undiagnosed.

The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, concludes that children with ADHD should be prescribed Ritalin, the best-known brand of methylphenidate, a drug found to be the most effective at controlling the energy levels of those with ADHD.

‘Taking into account both efficacy and safety, evidence from this meta-analysis supports methylphenidate (Ritalin) in children and adolescents, and amphetamines in adults, as preferred first-choice medications for the short-term treatment of ADHD,’ the study concludes.

Signposts for ADHD include short attention spans, impulsivity and hyperactivity, and if undiagnosed it can severely affect the person’s quality of life – impacting their employment opportunities and educational achievement if not diagnosed early enough.

ADHD is the most common behavioural disorder in children and is usually diagnosed between 3 and 7 years old – however, some experts say that behavioural therapy is preferable to medication, and those under 5 years old should not be given medication according the Young Minds, the children’s mental health charity.

‘Clinicians are very cautious about using medication in this country,’ said Emily Simonoff, professor in child and adolescent psychiatry at King’s College London.

‘The problem in the UK is predominantly about undermedication and underdiagnosis. The medications go part of the way to normalising and making more active those
areas of the brain.’

Reports from The Guardian have claimed that those with ADHD are waiting up to 2 years for diagnosis – referral to mental health services is swift but meeting with specialists can take several months.

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