Children who take medication to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do better in elementary school than those who don't, a new study has found.
Of 594 children whose parents reported an ADHD diagnosis, those who took medication scored 2.9 points higher on standardized math tests and 5.4 points higher on reading tests than children with ADHD who were not taking medication.
Researchers used a nationally representative sample from the Childhood Longitudinal Study of children who entered kindergarten in 1998, and followed them through fifth grade.
"It's one more important piece of evidence that states clearly that taking the medication isn't just about parents or teachers feeling better about the child or thinking he or she is more compliant," said study author Stephen P. Hinshaw, chair of the department of psychology at University of California, Berkeley. "On an objective, rigorously-designed standardized test of reading and math ability, we have evidence there are 'real world' gains in achievement."
The study is not advocating that every child who has attention problems be put on medication, Hinshaw said. An ADHD diagnosis should only be made after a careful evaluation by doctors.
And not all children will see test scores rise as a result of medication.
"This doesn't mean every single child will show that benefit," Hinshaw said. "Some will show more, some less. The family and clinician have to evaluate carefully the trade-off between the potential benefits and potential side effects."
The study is published in the May issue of Pediatrics.