CDC report on ADHD treatment, finds behavioral therapy to be seriously underutilized

The CDC posted “Vital Signs: National and State-Specific Patterns of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Treatment Among Insured Children Aged 2–5 Years — United States, 2008–2014” on 5-6-16.  This is a detailed summary of a CDC research project that compared Medicaid (MA) and employer-sponsored insurance claims for utilization of “psychological services” for children prescribed ADHD medication.

In other words, the CDC researchers studies the patterns of bills submitted for children prescribed ADHD medication to see how many of them were also receiving therapy services. This is an increasingly common research approach using “claims-based data.” The authors note that the current CDC evidence-based treatment guidelines for ADHD recommend that treatment start with behavior therapy before medication – that behavior therapy should be the “first line of treatment for ADHD.”  The guidelines also recommend use of parent behavior training, which helps the parents with a behavioral management plan for their child.

The CDC study concluded:

Despite 2007 and 2011 guidelines recommending behavior therapy as first-line treatment for children aged <6 years with ADHD, during 2008-2014 only about half of children aged 2-5 years with ADHD received psychological services. To effectively mitigate impairments associated with ADHD and minimize risks associated with ADHD medications, it is important to increase the percentage of young children with ADHD who receive evidence-based psychological services, especially parent training in behavior therapy.

mhconcierge’s take: This study provides considerable support for use of therapy as the “first line of treatment” for ADHD, and may be provided to PCPs, parents and school personal to encourage them to consider starting treatment with a psychologist or expecting prescribers to include referral for behavioral therapy as part of an adequately comprehensive ADHD treatment plan.

This article comes to our attention courtesy of the prolific psychology posting service provided by Ken Pope, Ph.D.

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