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ADHD meds and academic achievement

Writing in Pediatrics Richard M. Scheffler and colleagues reported that elementary-aged children who took medication for ADHD had higher mathematics and reading scores than their unmedicated peers with ADHD. The research team identified individuals in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten Class data set whose parents repeatedly reported that they had been diagnosed with ADHD and compared the achievement data for those children with ADHD whose parents said their child had taken medication to the achievement of those children with ADHD whose parents said their child had not taken medication. The scores of the children who had taken medication were about two or three tenths of a school year higher than those of the children who had not taken medication.

Although these findings extend the scientific understanding of psychopharmacologic treatment of ADHD, it is important to note that they are essentially correlational, not experimental. Although the study is very well done (uses a good data set, sophisitcated statistical analysis, etc.), the children were not randomly assigned to medication and non-medication conditions. It is possible that (a) some other factors explain why some children were or were not medicated, and that other factor may be the cause of the differences in achievement or (b) that children who had higher achievement were simply less likely to be medicated.

Here’s the abstract:
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