Medical reports of what is today known as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, date back to the 18th century. Over the past 60 years, medications and interventions have been identified and utilized to treat the condition, which affects as many as one in 10 school-aged children. Despite this progress, treatments remain unsatisfactory to many, and ADHD remains largely misunderstood today.
ADHD diagnoses continue to steadily increase in Oregon, and across the United States. Statistics compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate that due to multiple factors – including limited intervention and treatment services statewide – Oregonians are among the most impacted in the nation in terms of mental health conditions and care.
According to internationally recognized ADHD researcher Joel Nigg, Ph.D., the disorder itself goes far beyond a child being distracted, impulsive or hyperactive. “Even with early diagnosis and currently available treatments, ADHD can dramatically increase the risk of serious and complex long-term health outcomes such as depression, addiction, delinquency, or suicide,” he says. “It appears to shorten life spans significantly.”
However, new progress in ADHD research – achieved in recent years by Nigg and his team at Oregon Health & Science University, as well as at other institutions worldwide – shows promise for better understanding of this common disorder.
To further expand this positive momentum, OHSU has created the region’s first dedicated Center of ADHD Research. Led by Nigg, director of psychology in the OHSU School of Medicine and at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, the Center’s unique multi-disciplinary approach combines neuroimaging, early development research, genetics-epigenetics, and clinical studies to differentiate various types of ADHD. Its use of cognitive assessment, biological marker identification and impact of maternal health and environmental risk facts will lead to new insights for the causes and treatment possibilities for ADHD, as well as the prevention of the secondary mental health conditions it gives rise to.
“Cases of ADHD vary in important ways from each other,” says Nigg. “We need to understand more about how different biological, familial and environmental factors shape ADHD and course of development, so that we can develop better tools to help each individual be empowered and able to live their best and most productive life.”
In support of this work, Steve and Pat Sharp – through the Abracadabra Foundation – are sponsoring a matching gift campaign. Gifts up to $12.5 million will be matched dollar for dollar by the foundation and will help to sustain and expand clinical research and educational activities conducted at the center.