Help, my ADHD Teenager is becoming an ADHD Adult!
Recent Research studies find a shortage of Transitional Services for Young Adults (18+) who have ADHD: This Needs to Be Rectified.
Our children for whom we advocated for 10 years ago (Green Paper, 2006) are now young adults, and the services that we pleaded for throughout the intervening years have on the whole improved for this age group. However, ADHD-Europe members now find that there are a lot of difficulties for young adults (18+) when the services that were available for them as children and adolescents are no longer available to them once they reach 17- 18 years of age, a critical time in their further development when they are still in education and training.
Research shows that there is a continuity of symptoms and that new comorbidities can appear in adulthood; it is widely recognized today that ADHD continues into adulthood for up to 75%1 of those diagnosed as children/adolescents, the severity of which is directly related to the presence and seriousness of comorbidities; this is especially the case if ADHD has not been diagnosed and treated as children/adolescents.
“In general, ADHD is a persisting disorder. Of the young people with a sustained diagnosis, most will go on to have significant difficulties in adulthood, which may include continuing ADHD, personality disorders, emotional and social difficulties, substance misuse, unemployment and involvement in crime.”2
Most adolescents with ADHD symptomatology are transferred to adult services, where they are not given proper interventions to help them at this time. As a result, many are not motivated to continue their studies, seek solace with companions who are also struggling and often end up abandoning their studies which puts them at extremely high risk for developing substance abuse problems and engaging in risky or offending behaviours.
In most cases, the reason is that the psychiatrists and psychologists whom they encounter in the adult clinics or services often do not have adequate training about ADHD in adulthood and do not understand the needs of young people (18+), which are distinct from diagnosis and treatment in childhood and adolescence. As ADHD is often accompanied by one or more psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders etc, young adults who have not been diagnosed or treated as adolescent are more likely to be treated for a psychiatric condition rather than ADHD; this means that many of them are misdiagnosed, often with disastrous repercussions.
At the same time, the ADHD medication that they may need is not available anymore or – if available – is not reimbursable. This puts a big economic burden on their parents, who very often have two or more children affected by ADHD and cannot afford to pay for this medication. This is a recipe for disaster at an important time in the lives of these young people. Similarly, psychosocial interventions (e.g., ADHD coaches, CBT, etc.) are not available publicly, and very difficult and expensive to source privately.
To emphasise the importance of this issue, and to mark ADHD Awareness Month 2016, ADHD Europe has published a written declaration outlining our view on what care should be available to young adults with ADHD. The declaration is viewable here
1 This figure comes from a range of research papers quoting figures between 50% and 82% depending on severity of symptoms and co-existing conditions
2 NICE Guidelines February 2016