10. How long are children on these medications?
The expected duration of treatment has lengthened during this past decade as evidence has accumulated that benefits extend into adolescence and adulthood. However, many factors work against continued treatment during adolescence including the partial resolution of the most obvious symptoms, the short-lasting effects of medications that require multiple doses per day and the need for regular physician-written prescriptions. Additionally, parents often discontinue medication even when benefit has been demonstrated or because they see the child improve and don't think the medication is necessary any longer.
Stimulant drugs, when used with medical supervision, are usually considered quite safe. Although they can be addictive when abused by teenagers and adults, when taken as prescribed for ADHD these medications have not been shown to be addictive nor to lead to substance abuse problems. They seldom make children "high" or jittery, nor do they sedate the child. Although little information exists concerning the long-term effects of psychostimulants, there is no evidence that careful therapeutic use is harmful. When adverse drug reactions do occur, they are usually related to dosage and are always reversible. Effects associated with moderate doses are decreased appetite and insomnia. These effects occur early in treatment and may decrease with time. There may be negative effects on growth rate, but ultimate height appears not to be affected.
12. Is ADHD on the increase? If so, why?
No one knows for sure whether the prevalence of ADHD has risen, but it is very clear that the number of children identified with the disorder who obtain treatment has risen over the past decade. Some of this increased identification and increased treatment seeking is due in part to greater media interest, heightened consumer awareness, and the availability of effective treatments. A similar pattern is now being observed in other countries. Whether the frequency of the disorder itself has risen remains unknown, and needs to be studied.
For more information on ADD/ADHD, visit the National Institute of Mental Health.