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Q. Someone told me this week that ADHD has been linked genetically with autism? Can this be possible?

A. Apparently so. And not just with autism. A new study recently published in the Lancet British Medical Journal, reported that an international group of scientists have identified genetic links between several conditions including ADHD, autism, depression, manic-depression (bi-polar), and schizophrenia—this could help explain the reason that some of these diagnoses seem to cluster in families. Smoller, a psychiatry professor at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained that the portions of the genome identified (that appeared to increase the risk for these five conditions) also seemed to be involved in how calcium channels operate in the brain, which impact how brain cells communicate.

In addition, findings from the first ever population-based study to follow children with ADHD into adulthood (a 20-years study by Mayo Clinic) are published in the April 2013 issue of Pediatrics. According to Dr. William Barbaresi, lead author, “ADHD is by far the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in childhood.” Study findings indicated that approximately 30% of children with ADHD will continue to have it as a chronic problem in adulthood. And 80% of those adults typically have at least one other condition (e.g., anxiety, substance abuse, major depression, anti-social behaviors).

Children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school—some of which can carry over into adulthood. No doubt this study will help many to realize that 70% of children diagnosed with ADHD will outgrow it before adulthood or at least will learn how to deal with it. Treatment typically involves both medications and behavioral interventions. While treatment does not cure ADHD, it can help a great deal with symptoms and the behavioral interventions can help the individual learn to develop and implement more effective behavioral choices.

 

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