Enough Already with the ADHD Increases!

Thursday, December 5, 2013
Pic of methylphenidate (Ritalin) chemical

I'll keep this brief because I recently released a blog on ADHD with up-to-date stats, links, etc. However, this article just published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry elevates the rate of ADHD to an all-time high, reporting that 1 in 5 high school boys have been diagnosed wtih ADHD. To be fair, the article is based on parental report but still this figure left me speechless (I meant this figuratively of course... read on).

I'm sorry, but in my opinion the diagnosis of ADHD has gotten way out of control. Why excactly does it seem the rate of ADHD seems to be climbing an endless staircase? I don't know the full answer to this question, but I have observed in my practice that many well-meaning doctors are prescribing ADHD medications to kids in order to see if their attention span gets better. If attentional state in fact improves the child or adolescent receives the diagnosis, at least until more serious problems surface or she or he suffers a drug reaction. I have previously mentioned that almost anyone who takes an amphetamine-like stimulant medication will have improved focus and attention. So this form of "diagnosis by medication trial" is fundamentally flawed. 

Simply put, I believe this 1 in 5, or 20% figure is outrageous. Having said this, I am a firm believer that ADHD exists, that treatments for ADHD are excellent and include psychotherapy, study skills training, a healthy diet with proper Omega-3 fatty acids and, yes, sometimes medication. But 20%? I was taught in medical school that the entire prevalence of all combined mental disorders was 20%. These numbers just don't add up. As Professor Harold Hill said at the end of the epic Broadway musical The Music Man, "Think men, think!"