Health experts warn young kids may be overmedicated for ADHD

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows too many preschoolers with ADHD are being put on drugs.

3 out of 4 young kids diagnosed with ADHD are put on medication immediately before exploring other options. Yet health officials say therapy is probably better for kids. Research proves therapy is equally effective and doesn’t come with as many side effects, like stomach aches or sleeping problems. The CDC has recommended doctors use therapy before drugs for years, yet these alarming new numbers show that’s not working.

ECU’s Dr. John Diamond says he gets mixed reaction from parents about therapy.

“Some parents may not understand what we’re asking. And then of course there’s the issue, ‘where do I go for it?’ And others don’t like the idea of medication so they’re happy to look at an alternative,” Dr. Diamond said.

WNCT went to local doctors to find out why they’re jumping to medication. Behavioral intervention presents two main issues: there aren’t enough clinicians in the community to do them, and it’s not typically covered by insurance.

Dr. Diamond says encouraging parents to seek therapy instead of medication starts with insurance providers.

“I think it needs to be covered better. They consider medical outpatient visits with a co-pay, but they’re usually not very frequent, while behavioral interventions are frequent and if you have that kind of co-pay every time, it’s unaffordable,” Dr. Diamond said.

Dr. Diamond says many parents shy away from therapy because it requires a lot of their involvement, training from clinicians, and frequent visits.

Studies have shown medication helps older children, which has led to an increase in medicating younger kids.

More than 6 million U.S. children have been diagnosed with ADHD. About a third of those were diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 5.

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