Rise in ADHD Diagnoses Linked to Drug Company Promotion of Treatments

The dramatic rise in the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) coincided with a two-decade campaign by drug companies, aimed at doctors, educators and parents, to promote pills to treat the disorder, according to The New York Times.

Almost one in five boys of high school age, and 11 percent of school-age children overall, have received a medical diagnosis of ADHD in the United States. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 to 17 had received an ADHD diagnosis at some point. This represents a 16 percent increase since 2007, and a 53 percent increase in the past 10 years.

Dr. Keith Conners, a leader in the fight to legitimize ADHD, is very concerned about the increase in diagnoses. He notes the number of children on medication for the disorder has risen to 3.5 million, from 600,000 in 1990. He called the increase “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.”

“The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous,” he told the newspaper. “This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”

The drug industry is now focusing its efforts on adult ADHD, which could become even more profitable than the children’s market, the article notes.

While ADHD is acknowledged to be a legitimate disability that can interfere with success at school, work and personal life, many critics say the effort to treat every child with signs of ADHD has led to too many receiving the diagnosis and medication.

According to the article, drug company marketing portrays ADHD as including relatively normal behavior, such as carelessness and impatience, and has often exaggerated the medications’ benefits.

The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major ADHD drug, including Adderall, Concerta, Focalin, Vyvanse, Intuniv and Strattera, for false and misleading advertising since 2000.

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