Kids taking ADHD drugs visit the doctor more frequently to make sure their dosage is correct and the medication is working, Newcorn noted.
“I think it’s likely the case that medication visits are over-represented in a database of doctors’ office visits,” Newcorn said. “If you were seeing a primary care physician and you weren’t taking medicine, you probably wouldn’t need that visit.”
According to prior CDC research, 6.4 million children were reported by parents to have received a diagnosis of ADHD at some time.
This new research finds that the ADHD visit rate was more than twice as high for boys as for girls. Boys visited the doctor at a rate of 147 per 1,000, compared with 62 per 1,000 for girls.
Newcorn said these numbers seem to indicate that girls with ADHD are being identified and treated.
“We think the actual gender ratio of ADHD is about two boys to one girl, but in some settings there are far more boys than girls,” Newcorn said. “The fact that these numbers are pretty close to the accepted gender ratio suggests that girls with ADHD are being identified and treated. It’s not only a disorder of boys.”
About 48 percent of visits for ADHD by kids were with pediatricians. Thirty-six percent were with psychiatrists and 12 percent were with family doctors, according to the study published in the January NCHS Data Brief.
Despite this added detail, a New York specialist concluded that the report “raises more questions than it answers.”
“The report identifies some of the secondary psychiatric conditions seen in some of these children, but there is no mention of many of the common conditions that are seen in children with ADHD,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman.
These other conditions include sleep difficulties, motor coordination weaknesses, oppositionalism and learning disabilities, said Adesman. He is chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
“It is revealing that more than 6 million physician office visits were needed for children with respect to their ADHD,” Adesman said. “Unfortunately, this report does not identify how many children with ADHD were unable to see a physician for evaluation or treatment, or how much difficulty families had getting the medication that was recommended by their physician.”