Here's a "shock" for all you parents out there: Turns out ADHD is wildly, rampantly overdiagnosed. Over the past 20 years, thanks mostly to drug marketing campaigns, diagnoses have "soared" -- but why? According to Dr. Keith Connors, who spent 50 years fighting to legitimize the disorder, “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous ... This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”
Sounds about right to me. Because the internet, in its infinite, Big Brother-esque wisdom, seems to know that I have two children, I see an alarming number of ads for ADHD medications on a daily basis.
None of these carefully construed commercial spots mention much of anything about ADHD itself; instead, they focus on photos of happy, shiny, attractive children willingly doing all sorts of things they presumably wouldn't be able to do without their ADHD meds: Homework, chores, experiencing everyday joy. What parent wouldn't be sold on these magical medications?? No wonder ADHD is now the second most common long-term diagnosis made in children (asthma is the first). Sales of stimulant meds have more than QUINTUPLED since 2002.
So what's the downside? Well, these drugs are ... DRUGS. Highly addictive, often abused drugs with serious side effecs: Insomnia, appetite suppression, mood swings -- and in cases of overdose, severe heart problems and psychotic behavior. I'm not saying that they're not helpful medications in some instances, or that ADHD doesn't exist. I'm just saying, as a parent ... well, look at the numbers. There's just no way that many children are actually suffering from ADHD, which means countless kids are taking these pills (or wearing these patches) without cause. Sure, the treatment might result in higher productivity even in kids who don't have ADHD, but at what cost?
I guess the only thing parents can do is to always get a 2nd (3rd? 4th?) opinion -- and to remember that drugs are always a last resort.
Do you think ADHD is overdiagnosed?
Image via Chelsea Gomez/Flickr