Recent Research Findings
Magnetic resonance imaging research has shown that the brains of children
with ADHD differ from those of children without the disorder.
In addition, there appears to be a link between a person's ability
to pay continued attention and the use of glucose-the body's major
fuel-in the brain. In people with ADHD, the brain areas that control
attention use less glucose and appear to be less active, suggesting
that a lower level of activity in some parts of the brain may
Research shows that ADHD tends to run in families, so there are
likely to be genetic influences. Children who have ADHD usually
have at least one close relative who also has ADHD. And at least
one-third of all fathers who had ADHD in their youth have children
with ADHD. Even more convincing of a possible genetic link is
that when one twin of an identical twin pair has the disorder,
the other is likely to have it too.
Data from 1995 show that physicians treating children and adolescents
wrote six million prescriptions for stimulants-methylphenidate
(Ritalin®, dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®), and pemoline
(Cylert®). Of all the drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders
in children, stimulant medications are the most well-studied.
A 1998 Consensus Development Conference on ADHD sponsored by the
National Institutes of Health and a recent, comprehensive scientific
report confirmed many earlier studies showing that short-term
use of stimulants is safe and effective for children with ADHD.
Evidence is mounting that suggests stimulants are more effective
than behavioral therapies in controlling the core symptoms of
ADHD-inattention, hyperactivity/impulsiveness, and aggression.
But the addition of behavioral treatments seems to result in improved
functioning, in terms of better social skills and higher academic
achievement. More studies are needed to assess the combination
of medication and behavioral therapies and to examine the long-term
use of stimulant medication.
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