Updated 17 July 2017

More ADHD kids given drugs than therapy

A new study has revealed that many U.S kids treated with ADHD medication do not receive behavioural therapy that could improve their symptoms.

Few children who take medication for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also undergo behavioural 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 behavioural therapy (psychotherapy), the Rand Corp. researchers noted.

The researchers analysed 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.

Read: ADHD kids are treated with unapproved antipsychotics

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

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 non-profit 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.

Read more:
ADHD is over-diagnosed
ADHD medications won't stunt kids growth
Memory training helps kids with ADHD


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Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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