(HealthDay News) – The diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents has increased 66% in the last decade, with approximately one-third of these young patients now being managed by psychiatrists, rather than pediatricians.

Craig F. Garfield, MD, of Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues used data from the IMS Health National Disease and Therapeutic Index to evaluate trends for ADHD in children and adolescents <18 years from 2000–2010.

During this time period, the researchers found that physician diagnoses of ADHD increased 66%, from 6.2 million to 10.4 million. While psychostimulant medications have remained the mainstay of treatment, their use has decreased somewhat, from 96% of treatment visits in 2000 to 87% in 2010. The use of atomoxetine decreased from 15% of treatment visits in 2003 to 6% in 2010. Use of substitute therapies remained relatively stable during the study period. Responsibility for managing these patients has shifted from pediatricians to psychiatrists, with the proportion managed by a psychiatrist increasing from 24–36% during the study period. Males still accounted for the majority of visits (73–77%).

“In 10 years, the ambulatory diagnosis of ADHD increased by two-thirds and is increasingly managed by psychiatrists. The effects of these changing treatment patterns on children’s health outcomes and their families are unknown,” the authors write.

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