ADHD: One in 5 high school boys diagnosed

CJ Westerberg, October 18, 2013 5:05 PM


". . .a pamphlet for Vyvanse from its manufacturer,
shows a parent looking at her son and saying,

'I want to do all I can to help him succeed'."

Mental Steroids to the Rescue
The Real Deal, "Pseudo-ADHD" and the Money Trail

by C.J. Westerberg

Does this story have a renewed sense of urgency over the last few months because of the epidemic number of students that have been prescribed ADHD drugs?  Or, as MSNBC's Joe Scarborough suggests, is it because we are seeing the effects of 20+ years of the ADHD cultural bandwagon (see video below)?  Or, maybe it's pseudo-ADHD in full bloom or simply another "there's gold in them thar (sic) pills". The NYTimes front page news:

Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

. . . .The figures showed that an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 through 17 had received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis at some point in their lives, a 16 percent increase since 2007 and a 53 percent rise in the past decade. About two-thirds of those with a current diagnosis receive prescriptions for stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, which can drastically improve the lives of those with A.D.H.D. but can also lead to addiction, anxiety and occasionally psychosis.

Oops. Sorry about that, folks?:

A leading voice has been Dr. Ned Hallowell, a child psychiatrist and author of best-selling books on the disorder. But in a recent interview, Dr. Hallowell said that the new C.D.C. data, combined with recent news reports of young people abusing stimulants, left him assessing his role.

Whereas Dr. Hallowell for years would reassure skeptical parents by telling them that Adderall and other stimulants were "safer than aspirin, "he said last week, 'I regret the analogy' and he 'won't be saying that again.'

Which is even of more concern which is not specifically mentioned in the Times piece is this qualifier Hallowell wrote in the same post on his site last year:

I've written extensively about what I call 'pseudo-ADHD,' children who look as if they had ADHD but in fact have an environmentally-induced syndrome caused by too much time spent on electronic connections and not enough time spent on human connections, i.e., family dinner, bedtime stories, walks in the park, playing outdoors with friends or relatives, time with pets, buddies, extended family, and other forms of non-electronic connection. Pseudo-ADHD is a real problem; the last thing a child with pseudo-ADHD needs is Ritalin.

If you missed this classic viral video below (10 million views and counting) by Sir Ken Robinson, it is a must watch. The ADHD story - a "modern epidemic" - is from the 3:00 - 7:00 minute mark, but the entire video is key to getting the context.  Runs about 11 minute total.

Back to the NYTIMES article:

While some doctors and patient advocates have welcomed rising diagnosis rates as evidence that the disorder is being better recognized and accepted, others said the new rates suggest that millions of children may be taking medication merely to calm behavior or to do better in school. Pills that are shared with or sold to classmates - diversion long tolerated in college settings and gaining traction in high-achieving high schools - are particularly dangerous, doctors say, because of their health risks when abused.
 Looking forward:

And even more teenagers are likely to be prescribed medication in the near future because the American Psychiatric Association plans to change the definition of A.D.H.D. to allow more people to receive the diagnosis and treatment.

Interestingly, "rates by state are less precise but vary widely."  Is it coincidental that Southern states are more likely to diagnose teens with ADHD (bold emphasis added)?:

Southern states, like Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee, showed about 23 percent of school-age boys receiving an A.D.H.D. diagnosis. The rates in Colorado and Nevada were less than 10 percent.

More shock quotes but are we really surprised?:

"There's no way that one in five high-school boys has A.D.H.D.," said James Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Florida International University and one of the primary A.D.H.D. researchers in the last 20 years.

. . ."Those are astronomical numbers. I'm floored," said Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist in New Haven and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. He added, "Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy."

Non-diagnosed students have also caught on to the "benefits" of using these "mental steroids" for test-taking enhancement:

And with all those pills around, how much of that actually goes to friends? Some studies have said it's about 30 percent.

The article further points out that revenues from sales of "stimulants to treat A.D.H.D. have more than doubled to $9 billion in 2012 from $4 billion in 2007" and that diagnoses requires multiple visits to the doctor, which also is another revenue generator.  In addition, the children most often diagnosed for this disorder are covered by Medicaid.

ADHD: An American Dream or Reality?

Changing the Education Paradigm (Video featured above)  Less Exercise + Less Arts = Increase in ADHD Drugs
Video with Sir Ken Robinson

Let's Raise Our Kids to be Entrepreneurs - "We're Giving Them Ritalin & Saying To Them:
 Don't Be An Entrepreneur Type, Fit Into This Other System And Become A Student" -
Cameron Herold makes the case - TED Video

The Case for Distraction or Ritalin?

Related Video Below from NBC's Morning Joe

Related articles

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