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ADHD: Over-Diagnosed?

August 20th, 2013

Ritalin tablets

Photo: The Guardian, August 13, 2013, Murdo Macleod

A recent article published in the UK newspaper, The Guardian (Tuesday August 13th, 2013) entitled, ADHD Prescriptions Rise Sparks ‘Smart Drugs’ Fears is noteworthy for reasons that go beyond the main thrust of the commentary. While the piece highlights the dangers ensuing from “diversion or misuse”, what alarmed me most of all was the underlying acceptance of the trend toward “increased diagnosis of, and prescribing for, the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)”.

Apart from the fact that all pharmaceuticals are potentially powerful and dangerous (for example, stimulants routinely cause ‘rebound’ involving a worsening of behavioural symptoms) we are now well aware of this industry’s typically┬ádubious research claims as being a particularly noxious example of the mishandling of science. There is certainly a lack of valid scientific evidence to support the claim that these drugs contribute to improved learning and academic performance. While ritalin has a good chance of making a child more compliant in class, I’m not sure that this is the kind of ‘improvement’ we should be advocating for our children. Indeed, children are often put on stimulants as a result of pressure from schools who encourage parents to seek medical consultations directed at ‘controlling’ classroom behaviour.

Peter Breggin, author of Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors Aren’t Telling You About Stimulants and ADHD, has astutely pointed out that children are often actually suffering from “parent attention deficit disorder”; that parents rarely find enough time to give children all the attention they need. Often, the kids get the “left over time”. Perhaps its no wonder that parents give in so easily to the idea of medication as children make fewer demands while on drugs. If you would like to read more, I would recommend Breggin’s book. He discusses many of the subjects related to what I have touched on in this review, including how to deal with schools and it also includes tips about parenting skills.

 

 

 

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