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Steve Sees Sciways

Parent's weigh stigmas on option for ADHD meds

Many parents in new study of 48 families with a child diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) decided to go ahead with medication treatments, weighing the benefits against stigmatizing barriers they faced, says Susan dosReis, PhD, associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore

However, 40 percent expressed some social isolation and rejection, 21 percent shared beliefs about ADHD treatment that were shaped by negative media, and 17 percent noted their mistrust of medical assessments for diagnosing ADHD.

The study is designed to help the parents, as well as school officials, physicians, and communities to respond to the challenges of ADHD children. It is published in the August issue of the journal Psychiatric Services.

dosReis and coworkers studied parents of children six to 18 years concerning their experiences leading up to their child’s ADHD diagnosis, including whether to seek treatment. Parents were drawn from an urban area with a large proportion of low income, African-American residents.

A parent’s stigma over their child developing ADHD or another mental health condition may result from social effects of l abeling, stereotyping, exclusion, loss of status, and/or discrimination.  ADHD is a condition that often becomes most apparent when the child enters school.  

dosReis and co-authors wrote that treatments work fairly well for ADHD as opposed to treatments for other chronic mental health conditions, e.g. bipolar disorder. However, the stigmas about mental health are entrenched in the public and can prevent many parents from trusting and adhering to the drugs and doctor’s recommendations. 

Prior studies have identified a “culture of suspicion” about mental health treatment, especially when the treatment involves a child. There have been few qualitative studies on the topic of how parents’ stigmas affect outcome therapies for the children.  The researchers are currently analyzing follow-up data to assess how parents balance stigmatizing experiences with the use of available treatments.

“We now need to learn more about the parents’ adoption of the medication and develop interventions to deal with the situations they are dealing with,” dosReis’ said.  The study leaves open the question as to whether the stigmatizing experiences in the study are shared among families of other socioeconomic, geographic, racial and ethnic origins.