The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)

AdhdbrainFinally some tough questions are being asked about one of Big Pharma’s most successful manufactured “diseases,” ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The New York Times reports that the number of diagnoses soared amid a 20-year drug marketing campaign – and now it’s gearing up to persuade adults that they have ADHD just like their kids do:

After more than 50 years leading the fight to legitimize attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Keith Conners could be celebrating.

Severely hyperactive and impulsive children, once shunned as bad seeds, are now recognized as having a real neurological problem. Doctors and parents have largely accepted drugs like Adderall and Concerta to temper the traits of classic A.D.H.D., helping youngsters succeed in school and beyond.

But Dr. Conners did not feel triumphant this fall as he addressed a group of fellow A.D.H.D. specialists in Washington. He noted that recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the diagnosis had been made in 15 percent of high school-age children, and that the number of children on medication for the disorder had soared to 3.5 million from 600,000 in 1990. He questioned the rising rates of diagnosis and called them “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.”

“The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous,” Dr. Conners, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University, said in a subsequent interview. “This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”

The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and prescriptions for stimulants over the years coincided with a remarkably successful two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents. With the children’s market booming, the industry is now employing similar marketing techniques as it focuses on adult A.D.H.D., which could become even more profitable.

Few dispute that classic A.D.H.D., historically estimated to affect 5 percent of children, is a legitimate disability that impedes success at school, work and personal life. Medication often assuages the severe impulsiveness and inability to concentrate, allowing a person’s underlying drive and intelligence to emerge.

But even some of the field’s longtime advocates say the zeal to find and treat every A.D.H.D. child has led to too many people with scant symptoms receiving the diagnosis and medication. The disorder is now the second most frequent long-term diagnosis made in children, narrowly trailing asthma, according to a New York Times analysis of C.D.C. data.

Behind that growth has been drug company marketing that has stretched the image of classic A.D.H.D. to include relatively normal behavior like carelessness and impatience, and has often overstated the pills’ benefits. Advertising on television and in popular magazines like People and Good Housekeeping has cast common childhood forgetfulness and poor grades as grounds for medication that, among other benefits, can result in “schoolwork that matches his intelligence” and ease family tension…

[continues in the New York Times]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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8 Comments on "The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)"

  1. Cortacespedes | Dec 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm |

    So, if you don’t go on A.D.H.D. meds and continue them thru adulthood ( “educate the patient on the lifelong nature of the disorder and the benefits of lifelong treatment.”), you might run the risk of becoming “drug dependent” later in life.

    Ok, gotcha.

  2. Capitalism-enhancing drugs.

  3. Adderall is amphetamine and amphetamine salts in a form that supposedly can’t be snorted. Medically enforced amphetamine dependence for millions of kids is an uncontrolled experiment nobody has ever tried before. Perhaps we’ll learn something.

    The justification that if kids aren’t given Adderall, they might grow up to become users of speed strikes me as a trifle odd.

  4. “To combat this, groups have published lists of “Famous People With
    A.D.H.D.” to reassure parents of the good company their children could
    join with a diagnosis. One, in circulation since the mid-1990s and now
    posted on the information portal beside two ads for Strattera, includes Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Galileo and Socrates”

    And, not a one of them were on Adderall or any other ADHD drug. What if their ADHD was the source of their genius?

  5. kingemocut | Dec 15, 2013 at 6:27 am |

    I have legitimate ADHD, as well as Autism, and when you start to hit 15/16, the medication to calm you out made me comatose for 23 hours, with the last hour of the day to pass waste and eat a little, if at all. honestly, it DID help, but i found that the stuff i had (Straterra and Rispiridone) made me way to tired, and when i’d flip out, i couldn’t control what i would do. i ended up stop taking them, without the doctors permeation , and almost a year on, I’ve been more awake, less aggressive, and able to concentrate perfectly well.

  6. Ted Heistman | Dec 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm |

    Yeah that is so fucking retarded. “Better take your adderal/ritalin (meth) Johnny, or you could end up like Thomas Edison!”

  7. DeepCough | Dec 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm |

    Few dispute that classic A.D.H.D., historically estimated to affect 5
    percent of children, is a legitimate disability that impedes success at
    school, work and personal life.

    I thought classic Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was originally called “Sloth.”

  8. erte4wt4etrg | Dec 15, 2013 at 6:28 pm |

    You’re supposed to prepare them to inherit the earth, not feed on them & make them as empty you are

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