Nightly News   |  April 01, 2013

A.D.H.D. diagnoses on the rise

According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and analyzed by “The New York Times,” the number of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is increasing, with a 53 percent jump in the past decade. NBC’s Robert Bazell reports.

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>>> a stunning new assessment of national numbers came out today. it got the attention of a lot of us. it's about attention deficit , adhd and the extraordinary number of cases now being diagnosed. like one in five high school age boys in the u.s. 15% of all school age boys. 11% of all kids in our nation. these numbers show a 16% rise in cases just since 2007 . all of it is leading to questions about whether adhd is being overdiagnosed and whether the medicine to treat it is being overused. our report tonight from our chief science correspondent robert bazell .

>> reporter: 14-year-old ky and his 12-year-old brother kasen spend a lot of time outdoors staying as active as possible. the boys have a tough time sitting still. both were diagnosed with adhd when they were younger. their mom karen first noticed it when the boys had trouble completing simple homework assignments.

>> it was such a struggle. we only got six problems done in one hour. in between that time, he just blurted out, he says, mommy, i can't think. i just can't think.

>> reporter: according to data collected by the cdc and analyzed by "the new york times," the number of children diagnosed with adhd is increasing. the times analysis shows an estimated 6.4 million, ages 4 through 17, have adhd . those numbers reflect a 50% increase in the past decade. nearly two-thirds of those children get prescriptions with amphetamine-type drugs to help treat the disorder oh. sales of the drugs reached $9 billion last year.

>> i think this is of great concern. i think that there is some overdiagnosis and overtreatment going on under the guise of other conditions.

>> reporter: it's not just children diagnosed with adhd . on college campuses and high schools around america many students take the drugs to enhance performance on examinations. that raises many concerns.

>> how is it acting on the brain in the long term?

>> reporter: experts say there is no question that some children like the holmes have genuine problems that can be helped with medication. many worry there is too much diagnosis and too much medication. robert bazell , nbc news, new haven, connecticut.