Medicating children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is seen as controversial in some circles, but a new study suggests kids who start taking the drugs as young as 4 years old may do better academically than those who start in middle school.

According to the CDC, more than five million children between 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD since 2007, with the majority diagnosed with the disorder by the age of 7.

Researchers recently analyzed data from 12,000 Icelandic kids with ADHD and found those who began taking medication by the fourth grade showed only a slight drop in their math scores, while those who started the medications in the sixth or seventh grades saw a 9-percent drop.

“Performance of kids with ADHD tends to decline over time, especially if medication is delayed,” said lead study author Helga Zoega, an epidemiologist at the Institute for Translational Epidemiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “Starting medication earlier may halt this decline.”

Experts say other forms of treatment — such as behavioral interventions, education plans and parental training — should be tried first, but Dr. David Rosenberg, professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., added, “When the diagnosis is made correctly, earlier treatment markedly improves response and functioning.”

What does this mean for our kids? Do you think this kind of pressure will force too many misdiagnoses, or is it better to treat ADHD before it worsens?