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Study: Most Doctors Ignore Protocol When Treating ADHD

According to new research, over 90 percent of pediatric specialists do not follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recommendations when treating preschoolers for ADHD.

The AAP guidelines recommend that preschoolers with ADHD receive behavioral therapy first. If the therapy fails, doctors can try treating with medication.

Plus: A Parent’s Guide to ADD and ADHD

But when researchers at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center sent a questionnaire to 3,000 neurobehavioral specialists around the country, they found it doesn't always play out that way. More than 1 in 5 of the surveyed specialists reported that they use drugs, not therapy, as their first line of treatment. They sometimes use medicine in conjunction with therapy.

“So as much as I would like to think that doctors are prescribing medicine first line because behavior therapy is not available, that does not seem to be the case,” Dr. Andrew Adesman, the study’s lead author, told

When drugs are necessary, the APP recommends that doctors treat with methylphenidate. However, more than one-third of the surveyed physicians said that they often or very often prescribe different medication first.

Even though some studies show that behavioral therapy is less effective than drug treatment, Adelsman says medication does not work as consistently or effectively in preschoolers, and that parents should seek out behavioral therapy as their first-line of treatment.

Plus: Famous People with ADHD

“In general, medication should be reserved for cases where either behavioral therapy is not effective or where it is not available,” he said.

Has your child been diagnosed with ADHD? Leave a comment and let us know what your doctor recommended.