ADHD rates in Louisiana get the attention of DHH & politicians - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

ADHD rates in Louisiana get the attention of DHH & politicians

Louisiana is at the top in terms of people diagnosed and medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and now the state health department and some politicians want to make sure the drugs are not being over prescribed.

Wednesday, a House committee will consider Senate Concurrent Resolution 39 by Sen. David Heitmeier, D-Algiers.

The measure requests that the Department of Health and Hospitals study the most effective ways to ensure the proper utilization of ADHD medications in the state, and that the findings be presented to the Legislature.

"As we started looking at the data, the data suggests that the rate of [ADHD] prescriptions from 2008 to 2012 nearly doubled," said Heitmeier.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control indicates Louisiana ranks third in the country in terms of parents who said a healthcare provider had diagnosed their child as having ADHD. And the state rose to first place relating to the number of children taking medication of ADHD.

DHH spokesman Ken Pastorick said a March 2014 Express Scripts report, "Turning Attention to ADHD/U.S. Medication Trends for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, had disturbing information, as well. He issued the following statement:

"We hope that a study may shed more light on behavioral health treatment of children in our state and provide guidance on how to better serve our children. There is an extremely high use of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medications in Louisiana. In fact, Louisiana has the second highest prevalence of residents who are on an ADHD medication at 4.7 percent for the population as a whole. We want to help educate parents and doctors on alternative treatment options such as therapy, prior to prescribing medications. In Louisiana, 22 percent of 9 year olds on Medicaid were prescribed ADHD medications. In 2011, 73,000 children under 21 years of age were prescribed ADHD medication. We recognize that psychotropic medications are a critical part of therapy for all ages, but we want to make sure it is not overused to the detriment of those we serve. There is a tendency to use medication for treatment of ADHD which while helpful may not need to be the first course of action in symptom reduction and treatment. The child's parents, and teachers/ educators, along with his/her physical and mental health practitioners play crucial roles in how a child is treated. There are a number of ways for parents to get involved and educate themselves on their child's treatment plan. Talk to your family practitioner or pediatrician and ask for their input on how to best meet the needs of your child."

"And what we are trying to do is seeing if we are potentially overprescribing and bring some awareness if we are," said Heitmeier.

"It is very easy to mis-diagnose ADHD," said Dr. Martin Drell, Head of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at the LSUHSC School of Medicine.

He said correctly diagnosing ADHD is complicated.

"It's a combination of inattention, distractability, impulsivity and hyperactivity," said Drell.

He said many patients are not properly assessed and that could lead to flawed diagnoses.

"Our healthcare delivery system doesn't encompass really comprehensive care, so medications very often the easiest picked diagnosis, it's the quickest to do," said Drell.

Experts said there many other factors that can result in inattentiveness in children at school, including the home environment and whether they're exposed to violence.

"It is really a biological, social thing in the larger system and parenting makes a difference. Really, good enough parents could make it so that the kids could learn coping skills, so even if they have ADHD they can do well in school, chaotic parenting may mean they really act out in school," said Drell.

He said medications can help patients who have "true" ADHD and end up hurting those who do not, so proper diagnosis is very important. Because of that, Heitmeier said the prescribing of such medications cannot be taken lightly.

"The kids that are prescribed the ADHD medication are the youngest kids in school," said Heitmeier.

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