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Evidence of potential overdiagnosis and overtreatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents: protocol for a scoping review
  1. Luise Kazda1,
  2. Katy Bell1,
  3. Rae Thomas2,
  4. Kevin McGeechan1,
  5. Alexandra Barratt1
  1. 1Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Institute of Evidence-Based Healthcare, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Luise Kazda; luise.kazda{at}


Introduction Worldwide, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis rates in children and adolescents have been increasing consistently over the past decades, fuelling a debate about the underlying reasons for this trend. While many hypothesise that a substantial number of these additional cases are overdiagnosed, to date there has been no comprehensive evaluation of evidence for or against this hypothesis. Thus, with this scoping review we aim to synthesise published evidence on the topic in order to investigate whether existing literature is consistent with the occurrence of overdiagnosis and/or overtreatment of ADHD in children and adolescents.

Methods and analysis The proposed scoping review will be conducted in the context of a framework of five questions, developed specifically to identify areas in medicine with the potential for overdiagnosis and overtreatment. The review will adhere to the Joanna Briggs Methodology for Scoping Reviews. We will search Medline, Embase, PsycINFO and the Cochrane Library electronic databases for primary studies published in English from 1979 onwards. We will also conduct forward and backward citation searches of included articles. Data from studies that meet our predefined exclusion and inclusion criteria will be charted into a standardised extraction template with results mapped to our predetermined five-question framework in the form of a table and summarised in narrative form.

Ethics and dissemination The proposed study is a scoping review of the existing literature and as such does not require ethics approval. We intend to disseminate the results from the scoping review through publication in a peer-reviewed journal and through conference presentations. Further, we will use the findings from our scoping review to inform future research to fill key evidence gaps identified by this review.

  • epidemiology
  • mental health
  • paediatrics
  • child & adolescent psychiatry
  • public health

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  • Twitter @@LuiseKazda, @KatyJLBell, @rthomasEBP

  • Contributors LK, KB, RT and AB contributed to the conception and design of the protocol. LK, KB, RT, KM and AB contributed to the establishment of searches. LK drafted the protocol, KB, RT, KM and AB made contributions to the drafting and revising of the article. All authors approved the final version of the protocol for publication and its accuracy and integrity.

  • Funding This work is supported by Wiser Healthcare, which is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Program Grant 1113532 and CRE Grant 1104136. The funding source has no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation or writing of the report.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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