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Vital Signs

Fall 2006

Treatments Reduce Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Risks

UCLA psychiatrist served on U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on ADHD

An estimated 5 to 10 percent of school-age children and 4 to 5 percent of adults have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Despite the significant risks associated with the condition, however, many who have ADHD either are never diagnosed or fail to receive the treatment that would help them, according to James McGough, M.D., psychiatrist and director of the UCLA ADHD Clinic.  Negative publicity resulting from isolated cases of serious side effects associated with ADHD drugs should not distract from the more important issue that the benefits of the medications are abundantly clear, Dr. McGough asserts.

"ADHD is a biologically driven condition causing significant impairments," he says. "This is not a result of bad parenting, and it's not fiction-research has made great advances in revealing the underlying genetics and showing the structural brain difficulties of individuals with ADHD." When untreated, ADHD has been found to significantly increase people's risk for poor performance in school or at work, failed relationships, low self-esteem, drug and alcohol dependence, and automobile accidents.

The most commonly prescribed ADHD medications treat symptoms by stimulating the brain's attention centers. Non-stimulant ADHD drugs are also being used for some patients. "Many of these drugs have been used since the 1930s," says Dr. McGough. "They are generally safe, with side effects that tend to be mild to moderate, and which stop once you are no longer taking the drugs." Go to www.healthcare.ucla.edu/vitalsigns/adhd  

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