Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

December 25, 2013

A manufactured ADHD epidemic

If at any time while reading this article your attention wanders, you may have ADHD. If you pause to check your e-mail sometime during the next three paragraphs, you should consult a doctor. If you fail to read this article all the way to the end, you should get on Adderall, Ritalin or some other drug to treat your condition as soon as possible.

This isn’t quite the standard for diagnosing attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, but it’s close.

The New York Times ran a long expose on how the drug industry has stoked the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD that had a revelatory quote from Keith Conners, a doctor who has long advocated for the recognition of the disorder.

Conners called the overdiagnosis of ADHD “a national disaster of dangerous proportions,” telling the Times that the rising number of cases “is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.” This isn’t bomb-throwing from an outsider, but a critique from the namesake of the Conners ratings scale widely used to evaluate kids for ADHD.

There is no doubt that ADHD is a legitimate neurological condition that makes kids (and those around them) miserable, that blights their potential and that can be alleviated by prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin. There also is no doubt that diagnosis and treatment of the disorder has run wildly out of control on the promise of an easy pharmaceutical fix to the natural rambunctiousness of childhood.

The 6-year-old boy notoriously suspended from a Colorado elementary school on charges of sexual harassment for the offense of kissing a girl’s hand summarized the matter nicely: “I just have a lot of energy! I mean 6-year-olds — they have a lot of energy!”

No kidding. Our increasing unwillingness to distinguish between run-of-the-mill childishness — which, by definition, is heedless and frustrating at times — and a condition requiring pharmaceutical treatment is at the root of the ADHD epidemic.

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