By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service
LANSING — Nearly 12.8 percent of all Michigan residents ages 4 to 17 are diagnosed with ADHD, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics.
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, is marked by inattention, lack of focus and sometimes hyperactivity, and that can present problems for young learners as they move into higher education, said Adelle Cadieux, a pediatric psychologist at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
That population of ADHD youths has increased by 39 percent since 2003, according to the latest CDC figures.
As with other disorders such as autism, growing awareness and identification of ADHD has contributed to the increase of diagnoses, Cadieux said.
But, Cadieux said, there are always some practitioners and psychologists who over-diagnose.
The problem with a nonthorough diagnosis of ADHD is that treatment often includes stimulant medications, such as Adderall, Vyvanse and Ritalin, that can be abused by college students, Cadieux said.
“What some college students have tried to manipulate is using the ADHD medication so they can focus better, stay awake longer and get their work done,” she said.
Between 2005 and 2010, the number of emergency room visits due to abuse of ADHD medications jumped from 13,000 cases to more than 31,000 nationwide, said Susanna Visser, a health scientist at the CDC.
And of that 31,000, nearly half were not prescribed the medication, Visser said.
Since the late 1990s, ADHD diagnoses have increased by 3 to 5 percent each year, and that means more medication and more potential for abuse, she said.
“Misdiagnosis has been a concern over the last decade and a half,” she said.
For many previously undiagnosed college students seeking treatment for ADHD, Cadieux said it’s best to be cautious, as anxiety and depression often produce symptoms similar to those of ADHD.
“If someone comes in at 19 and says ‘I can’t concentrate, I’m struggling,’ I’m not automatically going to assume it’s ADHD,” she said. “I’m going to be very careful, not just asking them about their early education, but getting documentation.”
Of students who seek ADHD treatment at Western Michigan University’s health center, only one-third to one half are accepted for treatment after psychiatric evaluation, Sindecuse Health Center Director Lisa Marshall said.
And while the ADHD patients whom the health center take on comprise only 2 percent of the student body, Marshall said, Adderall is among the top 10 medications supplied at its pharmacy.
“When we see community providers’ notes, I am disappointed with my peers in how they evaluate, because some will only document a few sentences of poor concentration — then there’s an Adderall prescription tied to that,” Marshall said.
Two years ago the number of students seeking treatment for ADHD hit critical mass at Northern Michigan University, said Bruce Hall, assistant vice president of university marketing and communications.
“They found themselves turning away a few patients because of the volumes of patients they had related to this,” Hall said.
That’s when NMU began outsourcing treatment and diagnoses of ADHD to outside clinics, he said.
The move to outsource isn’t isolated to NMU. Other medium-sized Michigan public universities do the same ¬— specifically Grand Valley State University and Michigan Tech University.
Grand Valley counseling center Assistant Director Eric Klingensmith said the center focuses on short-term care and provides up to 10 individual sessions per year.
The center sends students with pervasive ADHD symptoms elsewhere for testing and long-term treatment, he said.
At Michigan Tech, students seeking diagnosis and treatment must go to a health clinic on campus run by the local hospital, said Christy Oslund, coordinator of student disability services.
Oslund estimated that while 10 to 15 percent of the student body has ADHD, only 5 percent register for disability services.
By MICHAEL KRANSZ