Kids Taking ADHD Drugs Get Little Psychotherapy: Study

Kids Taking ADHD Drugs Get Little Psychotherapy: Study

Kids Taking ADHD Drugs Get Little Psychotherapy: Study

Researchers find rates vary widely by county in U.S.

SOURCE: Rand Corp., news release, Sept. 22, 2014

TUESDAY, Sept. 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Few children who take medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also undergo behavioral therapy, and the rates vary six-fold across counties in the United States, a new study finds.

Medication alone can manage symptoms for many children with ADHD, but some do better if they also receive behavioral therapy (psychotherapy), the Rand Corp. researchers noted.

The researchers analyzed data in more than 1,500 counties across the United States that included more than 300,000 privately insured children, aged 17 and younger, who were prescribed ADHD drugs. Less than a quarter of them received any psychotherapy in the same year they took ADHD medications; 13 percent had at least four therapy visits, and seven percent had at least eight therapy sessions.

In some counties, fewer than 10 percent of kids taking ADHD drugs got behavioral therapy, according to the study, which was published as a research letter in the Sept. 22 issue of the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Those who lived in counties with fewer licensed psychologists were less likely to receive psychotherapy while taking ADHD drugs, the data showed. But even in some counties where the number of psychologists were the same, the rates varied.

In California's Sacramento County, almost half the kids with ADHD received therapy along with drugs, compared to only about 20 percent of those in Florida's Miami-Dade County, the researchers noted.

"Treatment of ADHD in children generates lots of controversy, primarily because of potential for overuse and abuse of stimulant medications," study author Dr. Walid Gellad, an adjunct scientist at Rand, said in a news release from the nonprofit research organization.

"We wanted to find out among those who receive ADHD medications, how many are also receive billed psychotherapy services? The answer is few, but it actually depends on where you live," Gellad said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about ADHD treatment.
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