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Is Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder properly diagnosed and treated in adults?

JANUARY 03, 2007

General adult psychiatrists should diagnose and treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults appropriately with stimulant drugs. So recommends Professor Philip Asherson and other colleagues in an editorial in the January 2007 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

ADHD is a common disorder affecting children and adults, and is a predictor of adult mental health problems.

Symptoms include high levels of inattentiveness, impulsiveness and restless overactivity, and are regarded as a source of disability in children and adolescents, as well as a risk to adult psychological adjustment.

Although ADHD can be effectively treated with stimulant medication, and such treatment is widespread in the young, general adult psychiatry has not yet followed suit in identifying and treating substantial numbers of affected people.

Young people are entering adult life whilst still receiving medication for ADHD, and adult psychiatrists are needed to take over treatment when symptoms persist. Moreover, some adult patients with ADHD may be misdiagnosed and ineffectively treated for other disorders, such as depression and personality disorder.

Adults with untreated ADHD use more healthcare resources because of smoking-related disorders, increased rates of serious accidents, and alcohol and drug misuse. Further research is needed to quantify the contribution of ADHD to psychiatric disorders in adulthood.

View the full press release from the Royal College of Psychiatrists:

Reference the full editorial:

Asherson P, Chen W, Craddock B and Taylor B (2007) Adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: recognition and treatment in general adult psychiatry. British Journal of Psychiatry, 198, 4-5.
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