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Study: Popular ADHD Meds Don't Increase Cancer Risk

Three widely prescribed medications for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall - do not cause genetic damage linked to an increased risk of cancer, according to research from Duke University. This new study refutes a previous one that showed that methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Ritalin and Concerta, is associated with increased risk for cancer.

The new Duke study used a larger sample size and a wider cross-section of children with Attention Deficit Disorder compared to previous studies.

"We looked at three common markers associated with damaged chromosomes and did not find increased genetic abnormalities in children taking either medication, regardless of a variety of factors, such as age, sex, body weight, height, race, and ADHD subtype," said author Scott Kollins. Kollins was referring to methylphenidate and amphetamine, the active ingredient in Adderall.

About two million American children have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

This study appeared in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Labels: medications, side_effects, cancer

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Outward-Turning Eyes May Indicate Risk of Autism, Mental Illness

Scientists at the University of California and Mayo Clinic have found two indicators that can warn parents and doctors that a very young child may develop a mental disorder.

In the first study from the M.I.N.D. Institute of the University of California in Davis, researchers found that even children as young as one year old can show signs of autism. Dr. Sally Ozonoff, who reported her findings in the journal Autism, studied 66 one-year-olds, of nine of whom were later diagnosed with autism. She found that seven of the nine had unusual ways of looking sideways or staring intently at objects. They were also more likely to spin or rotate their toys.

"We feel that our field could do a better job of diagnosis," Ozonoff said. "Our results suggest that these particular behaviors might be useful to include in screening tests. The earlier you treat a child for autism, the more of an impact you can have on that child's future."

Dr. Brian Mohney and his colleagues at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota matched 407 patients with an eye disorder with 407 children who did not have the disorder. Children whose eyes turn outward, upward, or down had a 41 percent greater chance of developing mental illnesses before age 17. Children with eyes that turned inward were not at an increased risk.

Dr. Mohney, writing in the journal Pediatrics, noted that he did not know why there was a link between mental illness and ocular misalignment.

Labels: diagnosis, mental_illness, symtoms

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Autism Slows Ability to Process Sounds

Autistic children may process sounds more slowly than normal children, which partially explains why they have problems related to communication.

"Twenty milliseconds does not sound like much," said lead researcher Dr. Timothy Roberts of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "But it means that these kids are on the 'el" [in the word elephant] while the rest of the world is on the 'phant.'"

Roberts and his colleagues, who used magnetoencephalography to measure 64 autistic children ages six to 15, found a delay of one-fiftieth of a second in sound processing compared to a control group of children without the disorder.

"Since we speak about four syllables a second," Roberts said, "the autistic brain, being slower to process syllables, could easily get to the point of being overloaded." He presented his report to the Radiological Society of North America, noting that the new technique could prove valuable as a screening method for young children.

Symptoms of autism include poor communication, repetitive behaviors, and avoidance of physical contact with other people. The disorder is believed to affect one in 150 children.

Labels: autism, sounds

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ADHD Affects Movement More in Boys than in Girls

A study of children ages seven to 15 has found that boys with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder experience greater impairments to their gross motor skills than do girls with the same disorder.
"The study, published in the Nov. 4 issue of Neurology, found that girls with ADHD and a control group of children without the disorder did twice as well as boys with ADHD in a test that compared their abilities to tap their toes, walk on their heels, maintain balance and keep a steady rhythm."
Mark Mahone, the study's author, attributes the difference to the fact that girls' brains mature earlier than boys' brains do. Source: Reno Gazette-Journal

Labels: motor_skills, impairments, abilities

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Zoloft May Help Children with Anxiety Disorders

A new government-sponsored study found that children with anxiety disorders improved the most when treated with a popular antidepressant along with psychotherapy.

Scientists from the National Institutes of Health studied 488 children ages 7 to 17 years old who have anxiety disorders. One fourth of the children took Sertraline (Zoloft); one fourth took Sertraline along with psychotherapy; one fourth had psychotherapy alone; and one fourth took placebos only. After three months, the children in the combined treatment group had the best results, with 81 percent showing improvement. In the therapy-only group, 60 percent improved, compared to a 55 percent improvement rate in the drug-alone group. Among the children who took placebos, 24 percent improved.

Anxiety affects about 20 percent of American children. Some become so tense that they will not leave their homes, refuse to sleep alone, etc. They can develop phobias and severe social anxiety, which can limit their participation in class discussions and other situations. "Improvement" in the NIH study meant that the children were able to do things they had refused to do before, such as sleep by themselves.

This study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Labels: medications, depression, anxiety

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3,000 Annual ER Visits Related to ADHD Meds

Over 3,000 people go to hospital emergency rooms each year because of accidental overdoses of medications prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, according to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Parents could prevent two-thirds of these emergencies by simply locking away the medications, which include Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, and other stimulants. About five million Americans take such drugs, and most (3.3 million) are under 19 years old.

Some of the emergencies were serious. One in five patients were hospitalized, one in five needed stomach pumping, and one in seven had heart problems. Common symptoms included rashes, spasms, muscle weakness, and abdominal pain.

This was the first study of ER visits and ADHD drugs. A prior study found that 25 people died between 1999 and 2003 from reactions to these common drugs, and 54 others developed heart problems.

This new study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Labels: medications, hospitals

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Researcher Claims Controversial Link Between Climate, Autism

A professor at Cornell University has found a link between living in a rainy climate and having autism.

Professor Michael Waldman found the positive link by going over daily records of precipitation and rates of autism for children born in California, Oregon, and Washington between 1987 and 1999.

Dr. Waldman believes that rainy weather may be responsible in one of the following ways: The weather may somehow affect a baby's prenatal development; keeping infants and toddlers indoors may affect their breathing or brain development; or the continued rain my result in a Vitamin D deficiency.

Some experts on autism expressed skepticism about Dr. Waldman's conclusions. Dr. Michael Fitzgerald, for example, noted that autism is increasing in all areas, not just rainy ones.

"In recent years autism has been blamed on everything from discarded iPod batteries to mercury from Chinese power stations, from antenatal ultrasound scans to postnatal cord clamping, and from diet to vaccines," he said.

Labels: climate, rain, weather

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Divorce Rates Higher when Child has ADHD

A study that appeared in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that couples who have a young child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are at higher risk of getting a divorce. Once the child reaches age eight, however, the divorce rates seem to level off.
"Certainly we are not suggesting that having a child with ADHD is the only reason these marriages end in divorce," [Dr. William] Pelham explained. "Disruptive child behavior likely interacts over time with other existing stress in the family to spark conflict in a marriage and, ultimately, divorce."
The study suggests that health professionals who treat children with ADHD should make a habit of asking parents about their marriage. Parents of children with ADHD may want to consider marital counseling to ensure the continued health of their relationship. Source: Reuters Health

Labels: parenting, marriages, divorce

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Link Found Between Brain Injury, ADHD

A study that was posted on the website of the British Medical Journal describes a link between brain injuries and ADHD in young people. A team that was led by University of Utah professor Heather Keenan reached this conclusion after studying the health records of more than 62,000 children.
Results of the analysis showed that compared to non-injured controls, children in both injury groups had similar and significantly higher rates of ADHD. Specifically, having a head injury before age two predicted a doubling in the likelihood of receiving an ADHD diagnosis...
The authors of the study pointed out that a head injury doesn't seem to cause ADHD, but may indicate behavioral characteristics that make an ADHD diagnosis more likely. Source: Medical News Today

Labels: diagnosis, brain_injury

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Study: Almost All Teens Play Video Games

A recent survey of 1,100 teenagers found that 99 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls play video games.

To many, the most surprising result of the survey was that video gaming is not an isolated pursuit. About 75 percent said that they play games with friends at least some of the time, while 65 percent play with others in the same room, with players helping each other.

A third of the teens, including those in the younger group (ages 12 to 14 years old), play games with mature content recommended for adults only. However, 52 percent said the games made them think about moral and ethical issues.

The Pew Institute performed the survey with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Labels: video_games, studies

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Fertility Treatments, Epilepsy Drug May Raise Risk of Autism

Two new studies of autism link the disorder with taking a certain drug for epilepsy during pregnancy, or having fertility treatments.

The first study was from the Liverpool and Manchester Neurodevelopment Group in Great Britain. Researchers looked at 632 children with no family histories of autism. The 64 children whose mothers took valprodate during pregnancy had seven times the rate of autism.

Children exposed to epilepsy drugs other than valprodate were not at increased risk.

Previous studies have linked taking valprodate during pregnancy to birth defects such as spinal bifida and heart problems.

The second study, which took place at the University of California, involved 4,000 mothers and children from birth to age six. The risk for autism was four times greater among couples who had undergone treatments for fertility. In addition, these couples were 40 percent more likely to have children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities, or serious sight and hearing problems.

Labels: autism, epilepsy

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Families With Autistic Children Likely to Struggle Financially

A new government study - the first to look at the impact of autism on a family's finances - found that having an autistic child causes severe financial strain, partly because parents often quit their jobs to care for their child and partly because these children often need multiple treatments such as behavioral therapy, speech therapy, and medications.

The study, which appeared in the December 2008 issue of the journal Pediatrics, compared the expenses of parents with autistic children to those with children who had other special needs. Those with autistic children were three times more likely to quit their jobs or reduce their hours at work to care for children, and they were spending more on their child's health care. They were also more likely than parents of other special-needs children to have financial difficulties.

Author Michael Kogan and his colleagues at the U.S. Maternal and Child Care Bureau used survey data collected on over 40,000 children with special needs.

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects more than 500,000 American children. The symptoms can range from relatively mild problems in communication and social interaction to a debilitating syndrome that includes severe mental retardation.

Labels: autism, money, expenses

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British Mom Loses Lawsuit over Private School for Special-Needs Daughter

A British mother of a special needs child lost a legal battle to get her county to finance her daughter's education in a $65,000-per-year private boarding school. The mother argued that her child needs a 24-hour curriculum of learning, supervision, and therapy.

Judge Richard Inglis ruled that the 11-year-old could receive an adequate education in a public day program at half at the price of the private school.

Parents of special-needs children in some parts of the United States have won lawsuits requiring their states to pay for private boarding schools if the public schools are inadequate for their children.

Labels: education, special-needs, boarding_school

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Having ADHD Child Doubles Divorce Odds

Having a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder doubles your chances of divorcing before that child is eight years old, according to a new study from the University of Buffalo.

ADHD, which affects five percent of American children, has symptoms of hyperactivity, poor impulse control, and poor concentration.

Dr. William Peham and his colleagues examined statistics on 282 parents of teens and young adults with ADHD, and 206 parents of older adolescents without the disorder. He used the children's birth date, not the date of the marriage, to compare the two groups.

About 23 percent of the parents of ADHD children divorced by the time their child was eight years old, compared to only 12.6 percent of the control group. If the child had comorbidities such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder, the risk of divorce was even higher. Once the child turned eight, however, the divorce rate for both groups was not significantly different.

"We know that ADHD children can be very stressful for their parents," Dr. Peham said. He believes that having an ADHD child may cause parents to argue about parenting techniques. Parents should be aware that the symptoms of ADHD often improve as the child grows older, Dr. Peham said, and it may be helpful for them to "think long-term."

This study appeared in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Labels: parents, divorce, strains

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