ADHD Redux: Overdiagnosed and Overtreated, or Misdiagnosed and Mistreated?

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 sought to transform medical care in the United States from procedures to performance, from acute episodes of illness to integrated care across the lifespan, and from inefficient care to efficient and affordable care with measurable outcomes. At the time of this writing, nobody knows whether the Affordable Care Act will survive, but these are still good goals. Because ADHD is the most common behavioral disorder of childhood, value-based care is essential.

This article identifies common problems in treating ADHD, discusses limits of care in pharmacotherapy and behavioral intervention, and offers practical recommendations for treating ADHD in the changing world of healthcare. (Source: Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2017 November;84(11):873-880)

The prevalence of ADHD increased 42% from 2003 to 2011,with increases in nearly all demographic groups in the United States regardless of race, sex, and socioeconomic status. More than 1 in 10 school-age children (11%) in the United States now meet the criteria for the diagnosis of ADHD; among adolescents, 1 in 5 high school boys and 1 in 11 high school girls meet the criteria.

Rates vary among states, from a low of 4.2% for children ages 4 to 17 in Nevada to a high of 14.6% in Arkansas. Worldwide estimates of ADHD prevalence range from 2.2% to 17.8%, with the most recent meta-analysis for North America and Europe indicating a 7.2% worldwide prevalence in people age 18  and younger.

Changing definitions of ADHD may have had a small effect on the increase in prevalence, but the change is more likely a result of heightened awareness and recognition of symptoms. Even so, guidelines for diagnosing ADHD are still not rigorously applied, contributing to misdiagnosis. For example, in a study of 50 pediatric practices, only half of clinicians said they followed diagnostic guidelines to determine symptom criteria from at least 2 sources and across 2 settings, yet nearly all (93%) reported immediately prescribing medications for treatment.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, requires evidence of a persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity, or both, with a severity that interferes with developmental functioning in 2 or more settings; was present before age 12; and cannot be accounted for by another behavioral health disorder such as depression, anxiety, or trauma. The diagnosis should document the presence of at least 6 of 9 symptoms of inattention (or 5 symptoms for teens age 17 or older), or at least 6 of 9 symptoms of hyperactive/impulsive behavior (5 symptoms for teens age 17 and older). Symptoms are best documented when reported by at least 2 observers.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of visits for ADHD to psychiatrists rose from 24% to 36%, while the number of less-costly visits to pediatricians decreased from 54% to 47%.

Thus, over the past 15 years, symptoms of ADHD have become more readily recognized, prevalence rates in the population have increased significantly, and associated costs have increased dramatically, with costs extending beyond individual impairment to a loss of productivity at the workplace. And treatment, typically with drugs, has been used without sufficient application of current diagnostic criteria. What impact does this have on the practicing physician?

By |2017-12-04T09:08:38+00:00December 4th, 2017|Brief Bulletins from the Field, We Know Psychiatry|0 Comments

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