ADHD: Possible Misdiagnosis of Millions of Kids

I went through kindergarten to 8th grade with the same 36 kids (give or take a couple). I remember my fellow students from grammar school so well that I can still name every one in alphabetical order. Now that I have my own kids and have looked behind the curtain, I often wonder what today’s child psychiatrists would have made of certain hyperactive, lower-functioning classmates of mine.

Conversely, I find myself thinking about what pediatricians of the '70s (okay, I dated myself there) would do with the many children I know these days who have been diagnosed with behavioral disorders and prescribed stimulants.


I have a hunch that at least a few of my childhood peers would've been given a daily dose of Ritalin and, on the other hand, a lot of little patients today would be left alone to spaz out.

As we were such a tight class, I still keep in touch with the majority of my fellow alum, and it's interesting to me that more than a couple "problem kids" have developed into responsible, successful, and happy adults -- drug-free.  

That’s why a recent study out of Michigan State University indicating that close to one million children are potentially misdiagnosed with behavioral issues has my mind reeling. The research from the study simply suggests that the diagnosis of ADHD is disproportionately handed to younger and less mature children.

According to Michigan State Assistant Professor Todd Elder, whose work on this subject is to be published in the Journal of Health Economics, "If a child is behaving poorly, if he’s inattentive, if he can’t sit still, it may simply be because he’s 5 and the other kids are 6 .... There’s a big difference between a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old, and teachers and medical practitioners need to take that into account when evaluating whether children have ADHD.”

Looking at a sample of 12,000 kids, Elder's research reveals that the youngest in kindergarten classes had an almost two-third greater chance of getting an ADHD diagnosis. As the kids grew, this same young subset was more than two times as likely to be given the behavioral-altering drugs.

I worry enough about unnecessary vaccinations, so this is really something to chew on.

What do you think of this research? Do you think too many kids are prescribed drugs for ADHD?

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