New research shows that children who begin taking stimulant medication for ADHD (attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder) before 4th grade perform better on standardized tests, especially in math.
Helga Zoega, PhD, Post Doctoral Fellow of Epidemiology at Mount Sinai's Institute for Translational Epidemiology led a joint team from Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the University of Iceland to find out whether treatment using drugs can help children with ADHD improve their grades in the long term.
The researchers used prescription drug records and test scores from 2003 to 2008 of nearly 12,000 nine- to 12-year-old Icelandic children who had taken standardized tests in both fourth and seventh grade. From the chosen research population, 1,000 children had started taking medication for ADHD at different times between fourth and seventh grades; 317 children had begun taking medication during this time.
The findings published in the article, A Population-Based Study of Stimulant Drug Treatment of ADHD and Academic Progress in Children show that starting stimulant treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder at a later age adversely affects academic progress in mathematics and language arts among 9- to 12-year-old children.
The report reveals that the grades of those children who began drug treatment within 12 months of their fourth-grade test went down by 0.3 percent in math by the time they took their seventh-grade test, compared with a decline of 9.4 percent in children who began taking medication 25-to-36 months after their fourth-grade test.
The study also found that girls benefited only in mathematics, whereas boys benefited slightly in math and language arts.
The researchers noted in a Fox News report that "they didn't have information on the kids' exact underlying ADHD diagnosis or its severity, and they also couldn't tell whether youngsters were getting behavioral treatment or extra school help along with stimulants."
Zoega is reported on the same Fox News report as saying that:
Not all kids need medication, It's important to think about whether alternative treatment options, whether earlier intervention with those could have a beneficial effect.
The report concludes that first starting using the stimulant drug later that 4th grade can cause a decline in mathematics scores.
A young girl playing on the beach
Other new gene study researchreported on Digital Journal by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia published in December 2011, reports that pediatric researchers analyzing genetic influences in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) found alterations in specific genes involved in important brain signaling pathways.
This finding raises the chance that drugs acting on those particular pathways might provide new treatment options for those with this particular gene variant, which in the U.S. could be half a million children.
Co-first author Josephine Elia, M.D., a child psychiatrist at Children's Hospital and an ADHD expert says in the report:
This research will allow new therapies to be developed that are tailored to treating underlying causes of ADHD. This is another step toward individualizing treatment to a child’s genetic profile.