What happens to children diagnosed with ADHD when they become adults?

What happens to children diagnosed as ADHD when they become adults?

The first Large, population-based study to follow children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) into adulthood shows that of the children studied, only 37.5% reported that they were free of the disorder in adulthood. The long-running study followed 5728 children at age 5, who were born in Rochester, Minnesota between 1976 and 1982. The study population was relatively heterogeneous and largely middle class, and the children tended to have good education and good access to health care. 367 were diagnosed with ADHD and, of this group, 232 participated in the follow-up study. About three-quarters had received ADHD treatment as children. At follow-up, the researchers found:

l 29% of the children with ADHD still had ADHD as adults (ascertained through structured neuropsychiatric interviews)

l 57% of children with ADHD had at least one other psychiatric disorder as adults, as compared with 35% of controls. The most common were substance abuse/dependence, antisocial personality disorder, hypomanic episodes, generalized anxiety and major depression

l Of the children who still had ADHD as adults, 81% had at least one other psychiatric disorder, as compared with 47% of those who no longer had ADHD and 35% of controls

l 7 of the 367 children with ADHD (1.9%) had died at the time of study recruitment, 3 of them from suicide. Of the 4,946 children without ADHD whose outcomes could be ascertained, only 37 children had died, 5 by suicide

l 10 children with ADHD (2.7%) were in the judicial system at the time of recruitment for the study.

Important points from this study are that about 70 % of the patients diagnosed as ADHD as children no longer met criteria for the disorder. I find that this fits with informal data from my own clinical practice where I have tracked some children into adulthood. Other colleagues in a similar child psychology practice agree. It is disheartening to see that over 80% of those diagnosed as ADHD as kids that still met criteria as adults had other psychiatric problems. Source: April 2013 issue of Pediatrics.