Bloomberg News

Drugs Don’t Benefit Preschoolers With Attention Disorder

February 11, 2013

Most preschool-age children with moderate-to-severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, continue to experience severe symptoms years after their diagnosis despite treatment, a study shows.

Six years after their diagnosis, about 90 percent of the 186 children followed by researchers still had difficulties with symptoms such as over-activity, impulse control or inattentiveness, according to a study released today by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adult Psychiatry.

ADHD affects 3 percent to 5 percent of school-age children, mostly boys, according to the National Institutes of Health. Treatments include medication and behavior therapy. The ailment increases the likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse and difficulty keeping a job later in life, according to the NIH.

“ADHD in preschoolers is a chronic and rather persistent condition, one that requires better long-term behavioral and pharmacological treatments than we currently have,” Mark Riddle, a study author and children’s psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, said in a statement.

In the study, children ages 3 to 5 were treated for several months after being diagnosed, then referred back to community physicians. Over the next six years, detailed reports from parents and teachers were used to track the severity of their symptoms.

The children on medication, who were two-thirds of the group, didn’t show significant differences in severity compared with those who weren’t on drugs. Almost two-thirds of the children on medication had significant hyperactivity and impulsivity, compared with 58 percent of those who weren’t taking medications.

The study wasn’t designed to answer the question of why the different treatments may not have yielded different results, the author said. Among the reasons may have been that the wrong drugs or dosages were prescribed, or that the children weren’t taking their medication properly, the researchers said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

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