This Study is Under Reconsideration
In 1999 the results of a study called Multimodal Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder (MTA) were released. The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to the tune of 11 million dollars. The goal of the study was to determine if the most effective long-term treatment for ADHD was medication, behavioral therapy, or a combination.
The scientists ultimately decided that medication such as Ritalin or Adderall was far superior to behavioral therapy. And that the combination of behavioral therapy and medication was equally as effective as medication alone. The study has since been considered one of the most influential studies in the history of ADHD.
Today, psycho-social (or behavioral) therapy is often not considered when treating children with ADHD. It is likely that this is a direct result of the MTA study. Therapy is certainly more financially costly and time intensive which also makes schools, families and insurers unlikely to seek it out as a treatment option.
Recently, however, new studies have called into question the benefits of medication as opposed to behavioral therapy. And in an even more shocking turn of events some of the studies original authors have made doubtful comments about the results of the study. Dr. Gene Arnold, one of the researchers for the study said, “There was lost opportunity to give kids the advantage of both [medication and behavioral therapy] and develop more resources in schools to support the child – that value was dismissed.”
In particular, researchers fear that the way the study was structured may have favored medication. The analysis and markers for effectiveness were measured in categories of symptoms as opposed to overall behavioral performance. New research tends to be suggesting that in terms of seeing more holistic changes in academic achievement and interpersonal interactions, behavioral therapy is actually significantly better. And also, that while doctors may feel medication gives the best outcomes parents actually prefer the results of behavioral therapy as treatment.