Pharmaceutical Ads and The Over-Diagnosis of ADHD

boy with ADHD is very active At one time they were labeled as “bad kids.” Thankfully over the last two decades doctors, educators and parents have come to recognize that children with ADHD have a very real neurological disorder that needs treatment. But are we swinging too far in the opposite direction? Is ADHD being over-diagnosed?

A recent New York Times article draws attention to what Dr. Keith Conners, psychologist, professor emeritus at Duke University, and early advocate for recognition of ADHD, had to say about this alarming trend. 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. “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous. This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”

This highlights the problem of over-diagnosis and over-medication of ADHD. The pharmaceutical companies are vigorously marketing their drugs to doctors, parents and even children through various ad campaigns. This article goes on to report, “The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major A.D.H.D. drug — stimulants like Adderall, Concerta, Focalin and Vyvanse, and nonstimulants like Intuniv and Strattera — for false and misleading advertising since 2000, some multiple times.”

Because of side effects and danger of addiction, medication cannot be viewed as harmless. It’s important for parents to educate themselves before consenting to drug treatment for their children. After a proper diagnosis, medications can be prescribed to temporarily control the symptoms, but they cannot cure the disorder.

Psychological help is also needed to improve self-esteem and to instill life-long coping skills. Behavioral therapy, emotional counseling and practical support are essential for lasting improvement. After discussing with a doctor ALL treatments available, as a parent you ultimately need to make the final decision about what’s best for your child.

If you are searching for the best diagnosis and treatment for neurological disorders such as ADHD, consult a psychologist or psychiatrist. A thorough evaluation of the person’s medical, academic and family history is essential for a proper assessment of type and severity of the disorder and other associated emotional problems. Contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office to schedule an appointment.

Learn more on my website – ADD & ADHD.

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