An Icelandic study has suggested that children who get early treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder do better in school than those who aren’t prescribed drugs until they are older. Researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York found that those given stimulants such as Ritalin, Concerta and Vyvanse between fourth and fifth grade tend to do better at tests in the seventh grade than those who weren’t medicated until the sixth grade.
“Their short-term efficacy in treating the core symptoms of ADHD — the symptoms of hyperactivity and attention and impulsivity — that has been established,” said Helga Zoega, the lead author on the new study.
“With regard to more functional outcomes, for example academic performance or progress, there’s not as much evidence there as to whether these drugs really help the kids academically in the long term,” she told Reuters Health.
The team of scientists therefore analysed prescription records and test scores of children from elementary and middle schools in Iceland.
Of the 13,000 children registered in the school system between 2003 and 2008, 1,000 were diagnosed with ADHD and 317 treated with stimulant drugs. The researchers found that those diagnosed with the condition saw a yearly decline in test scores when compared with their peers, especially if the drugs were started later.
Those started on the medication within a year of fourth grade tests saw their scores decline by an average of one percent by their seventh grade tests. However, this drop increased to nine percent for those who were not treated until the sixth or seventh grade.