Life cycle of ADHD
Does medication make a difference in the long run for kids suffering from the disorder? New research suggests it doesn't.
By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
January 28, 2008
Doctors and parents have long been left to guess at which children with a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, will go on to become adults with significant attention problems, how well they will navigate the challenges of adulthood and whether early recognition of -- and medication for -- their condition will make any difference in the trajectory of their lives.
Now a series of studies following 457 Finnish children from birth to ages 16 to 18 offers a glimpse of how the primary symptoms of ADHD typically evolve. At the same time, the studies raise provocative questions about the long-term effect of treating those symptoms with medication.
The studies focus on a subset of 188 Finnish teens considered to have "probable or definite ADHD" that will follow them into adulthood and 103 kids with conduct disorder -- behavior issues that fall short of an ADHD diagnosis but put kids at higher risk for similar problems. Those teens were compared with a group of Finnish teens with no ADHD diagnosis.
Researchers found it is the can't-sit-still kids -- the stereotype of the "ADHD generation" -- who are most likely to mature out of the disease. Among those with persistent ADHD, they also found, half have problems with cognitive skills that are key to success in adulthood, but half have no such deficits.