Article posted Thursday, October 2, 2014 10:59am

In the U.S., 11 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 years are diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The ADHD child fidgets, cannot concentrate, and often has poor social skills. In the classroom, a child who behaves as described above and engages in incessant disruptive behavior is a likely candidate for drug treatment, which surprisingly is usually a stimulant. With treatment, most of these youngsters settle down, become more cooperative, and gain focus so they can study. For many parents, treatment of their hyperactive children brings about a miracle, because once again peace returns to the family.

However, recent studies suggest that medication should be a short-term fix. An ADHD researcher at the Univ. of California, Irving, stated: “I don’t know of any evidence that shows any long-term benefit of taking the medication.” The studies that looked at the effects of ADHD medication much beyond a year have found “…the benefits either vanish or shrink to clinically meaningless proportions.” The Public Health Service funded a study that involved 579 randomly selected ADHD youngsters between the ages of seven and 10 years. Four groups were selected randomly, and each group received its own treatment protocol. Group 1 received ADHD medication. Group 2 received behavior therapy. Group 3 underwent behavior therapy and medication. Group 4 used whatever treatment they had been using. After 14 months, Groups 1 and 3 showed the most progress. However, by three years, no difference was seen between the four groups (tests included grade evaluation, test scores, and social adjustment). Similar results were seen in other such studies.

Also, studies evaluating the use of ADHD drugs by students to enhance intelligence or pass a test showed no effects, although the user tended to feel as if he or she were smarter and could get high marks on tests. Two take-home messages: 1. ADHD drugs may work in the short run but they make little difference over the long run, and 2. Student use of ADHD drugs to make them smarter or help them pass a test is a myth, although their mood may be temporarily elevated. (The Smart-Pill Oversell by Katherine Sharpe, 2014; Nature, Feb. 13, 2014)