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December 25, 2013

A manufactured ADHD epidemic

(Continued)

According to the forthcoming book The ADHD Explosion, 19 percent of high-school-aged males have received a diagnosis. The numbers differ from state to state. In North Carolina, an astounding 30 percent of boys over age 9 are supposedly suffering from ADHD. Overall, 6 percent of children and adolescents in the United States are on drugs to treat ADHD.

It’s a wonder more kids aren’t diagnosed with it, given the overlap between the description of the disorder and failings to which we are all prone.

The New York Times points out that the American Psychiatric Association criteria for ADHD include “often has difficulty waiting his or her turn” and “makes careless mistakes,” hardly rare childhood behaviors.

Lowering the bar further, drug companies sponsor online quizzes telling people they may have ADHD if they have trouble with things like “remembering appointments” or “getting things in order.”

The drug companies — for whom ADHD is a $9 billion-a-year business — target mothers with alluring ads suggesting their children will become little angels through the wonders of risk-free stimulants. Their kids will get better grades, spend more quality time with the family, remember to take out the trash and shower everyone around them with good cheer. Who wouldn’t want their child thus magically transformed?

According to the Times report, the Food and Drug Administration has constantly rebuked the companies for going beyond the evidence in selling visions of childhood Valhalla secured through the right drug.

Undertrained primary-care physicians and worried parents default much too often to the diagnosis of ADHD and to the answer of a prescription.

The next frontier is adult ADHD, with the promise of a vast new pharmaceutical market made up of people deprived of ADHD diagnoses when they were children. Some of these diagnoses will be warranted and life-changing, but others will be overreach prompted by vague and dubious symptoms, like inattentive op-ed reading.

Sure, you got to the end of this article. But how about the next one?

— Rich Lowry may be reached via e-mail at comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

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