NIH: Research Backs ADHD Diagnosis in Children

NIH consensus panel statement validates existence of ADHD but cites inconsistencies in care for children with ADHD.

NIH Consensus Statement on ADHD in Children

In November 1998, the National Institutes of Health held a three-and-a-half-day conference of non-advocate, non-federal experts with the goal of establishing a professional consensus on a number of questions surrounding ADHD, including:

  • What is the scientific evidence to support ADHD as a disorder?
  • What is the impact of ADHD on individuals, families, and society?
  • What are the effective treatments for ADHD?
  • What are the risks of the use of stimulant medication and other treatments?
  • What are the existing diagnostic and treatment practices, and what are the barriers to appropriate identification, evaluation, and intervention?
  • What are the directions for future research?

Over the course of two days, thirty-one experts presented their research findings before the consensus panel and an audience of over 1,000. Then the consensus panel, which consisted of 13 experts representing the fields of psychology, psychiatry, neurology, pediatrics, epidemiology, biostatistics, education, and the public, wrote and presented a draft of a consensus statement for discussion and refinement. Despite some criticism of the consensus process, the final version remains the most comprehensive and unbiased evaluation of ADHD and its treatments to date.

Conclusions of the Consensus Panel

NIH consensus panel statement validates existence of ADHD but cites inconsistencies in care for children with ADHD. Read more."Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood that represents a costly major public health problem. Children with ADHD have pronounced impairments and can experience long-term adverse effects on academic performance, vocational success, and social-emotional development which have a profound impact on individuals, families, schools, and society. Despite progress in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of ADHD, this disorder and its treatment have remained controversial, especially the use of psychostimulants for both short- and long-term treatment.

Although an independent diagnostic test for ADHD does not exist, there is evidence supporting the validity of the disorder. Further research is needed on the dimensional aspects of ADHD, as well as the comorbid (coexisting) conditions present in both childhood and adult forms.

Studies (primarily short term, approximately 3 months), including randomized clinical trials, have established the efficacy of stimulants and psychosocial treatments for alleviating the symptoms of ADHD and associated aggressiveness and have indicated that stimulants are more effective than psychosocial therapies in treating these symptoms. Because of the lack of consistent improvement beyond the core symptoms and the paucity of long-term studies (beyond 14 months), there is a need for longer term studies with drugs and behavioral modalities and their combination. Although trials are under way, conclusive recommendations concerning treatment for the long term cannot be made presently.

There are wide variations in the use of psychostimulants across communities and physicians, suggesting no consensus regarding which ADHD patients should be treated with psychostimulants. These problems point to the need for improved assessment, treatment, and followup of patients with ADHD. A more consistent set of diagnostic procedures and practice guidelines is of utmost importance. Furthermore, the lack of insurance coverage preventing the appropriate diagnosis and treatment of ADHD and the lack of integration with educational services are substantial barriers and represent considerable long-term costs for society.

Finally, after years of clinical research and experience with ADHD, our knowledge about the cause or causes of ADHD remains largely speculative. Consequently, we have no documented strategies for the prevention of ADHD."

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APA Reference
Gluck, S. (1998, November 16). NIH: Research Backs ADHD Diagnosis in Children, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: February 14, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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