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ADHD report shows sharp rise in diagnoses

A new survey by the Centers for Disease Control shows a 53 percent rise in cases of ADHD over the past decade, according to the New York Times.
Liverpool (WSYR-TV) -- When 13-year-old Patrick McGrath visited his doctor last year, he believed something was wrong.

“I was very unfocused. I couldn’t pay attention in school. I kept wandering off, drifting to different places in my head and overall, I was just doing terrible in school,” McGrath told NewsChannel 9.

McGrath's story is familiar to millions of families across the country.

A new survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers feedback from 76,000 parents. The New York Times analyzed the data and reported a 53 percent rise in ADHD diagnoses over the past decade.

Among school-age children, seven percent of girls had been diagnosed, compared to 15 percent of boys. The biggest jump is noted for teens in high school, with 10-percent of girls and 19 percent of high school boys being diagnosed.

"I think over the past five years, the greatest pressure on parents has been from the schools, from teachers who tell parents they'd like their child evaluated for ADHD because they are difficult to control in class,” said Summerwood Pediatrics Medical Director Dr. Robert Dracker.

Dr. Dracker said the numbers reported by the New York Times seem somewhat dramatic, far higher than the diagnoses he's seen in his pediatric office over the same period of time. But, Dracker recommends evaluations by teachers and psychiatric experts to rule out learning disorders or other behavioral problems, before determining his diagnosis. He agrees ADHD may be over-diagnosed.  He also believes the trend may signal better access to treatment, noting significant variations of data in different states.

"More primary care providers are evaluating children and treating children with ADHD as compared to 10-15 years ago, when a lot of children were seen by specialists and by psychiatrists to evaluate them and to treat them,” Dr. Dracker continued.

The CDC found that nearly two-thirds of the children currently diagnosed with ADHD were prescribed medications .

Patrick doesn't have any regrets, but hopes to eliminate the need for medication as his school work improves. He's thankful a doctor could help explain his struggle to focus.

"In the past, it was just considered laziness and you need to work more or they just don't want to pay attention, when they really do,” McGrath said.
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