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ADHD 'Epidemic' Called False Crisis That Has Led to Overprescribing of Drugs

ADHD 'Epidemic' Called False Crisis That Has Led to Overprescribing of Drugs

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By    |   Wednesday, 19 October 2016 02:07 PM

There's an epidemic spreading across America, and it's being fostered by the very people who are pledged to treat it. The epidemic is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and vast numbers of American children are being incorrectly diagnosed and treated with amphetamines.

Currently, doctors diagnose 15 percent of American children with ADHD, and they routinely prescribe stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin to help kids focus and concentrate.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis is correct only about a third of the time, says Alan Schwarz, author of ADHD Nation: Children, Doctors, Big Pharma and the Making of an American Epidemic, which means that millions of children are taking drugs they don't need and should have never been prescribed in the first place.

Schwarz began investigating the overuse of stimulants after he learned that kids in high school were abusing the medications. "Kids were abusing and snorting Adderal before taking their ACTs," said the Pulitzer-prize-nominated investigative reporter for The New York Times.

"I saw it as an academic pressure thing," he told Newsmax Health. "That in itself was horrifying, but when I started researching, I found out how the kids got the medication.

"They were either faking ADHD to their doctors, or buying the pills from someone who had been diagnosed."

Further research revealed that the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders claims that ADHD affects 5 percent of American children — far fewer than the actual number who are being diagnosed and treated for the disorder.

"That's millions of children being told there is something wrong with their brain when there probably isn't," Schwarz says. "It was abundantly clear that the system by which the kids got diagnosed with ADHD and got the prescriptions was completely out of whack."

Schwarz doesn't deny that ADHD is a real condition, and that millions of children and their families have been helped by treatment with Adderall and other stimulants.

"I've never questioned the legitimacy of the ADHD diagnosis itself," he said. "It's not for me to say. Some kids really struggle with it.

"The problem is we're diagnosing 15 percent of children, not 5 percent."

ADHD is a complex disorder that can affect a child's success in school and also their relationships with family and friends. It can be difficult to diagnose, and symptoms vary but include:

• Easily distracted
• Not finishing tasks, whether chores or homework
• Difficulty waiting their turn
• Fidgeting
• Not paying attention when spoken to
• Inappropriate outbursts of anger
• Daydreaming
• Talking excessively
• Constantly moving

"If the kid fits the constructs of ADHD, intervening at that point with medications is not a bad thing to do," Schwarz says. "Parents may be at their wits' end. They have tried everything to help their child and are desperate.

"But we're doing a rotten job of distinguishing the kids that actually have ADHD from others who are having problems but don't have ADHD. Adderall might not be the treatment they need."

There are several reasons that children are overdiagnosed. One is that the condition is difficult and time-consuming to diagnose properly. Many physicians just take note of symptoms and bow to the parents' demands that their children be diagnosed with the condition and medicated.

Second, although cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) might be a viable alternative to stimulants in children that have ADHD, it is often dismissed.

"CBT is expensive, and it's difficult to find a provider who is qualified, so it's much easier to give the drug, which is inexpensive, and see if it helps," Schwarz. "The medical establishment tells parents that studies have shown that medication works best, which is actually not true.

"Parents have been getting all of these signals saying, 'give them the drugs, it'll be okay' from doctors, friends, experience and ads from the pharmaceutical companies."

The third reason kids are overdiagnosed is that pharmaceutical companies have undertaken long-term, successful marketing campaigns that have expanded the perception of ADHD to include relatively normal behavior such as impatience and carelessness, says Schwarz, and they have also exaggerated the pills' benefits.

If the current trend continues, 500,000 more children will be diagnosed with ADHD in 2017.

The situation is intolerable, says Schwarz.

"While we need to find the kids that would benefit from stimulant medication, we don't need to give the medication to those who wouldn't benefit.

"It's not appropriate therapy for them. You wouldn't give chemotherapy to a kid with pneumonia, so why are we giving amphetamines to kids who are struggling but don't have ADHD?" he asks.

"It doesn't make any sense. It's indefensible. And yet the powers that be argue that everything's hunky-dory. I don't see how anyone could make that case."


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There's an epidemic spreading across America, and it's being fostered by the very people who are pledged to treat it. The epidemic is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and vast numbers of American children and adults are being incorrectly diagnosed and...
ADHD, epidemic, crisis, overprescribing, drugs
Wednesday, 19 October 2016 02:07 PM
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