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Kalee Brown | Collective Evolution
While I was at university, many of my peers would take Adderall, a drug commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.), to help them study or maintain focus while writing an exam. It was somewhat of a social norm and no one seemed to care why because it was so popular; however, I believe it is a clear representation of the social and academic pressures imposed on children to be “successful.”
It also begs the question: How are so many kids gaining access to Adderall? Author and journalist Alan Schwarz explains that American children are not only severely over-diagnosed with A.D.H.D., but also frighteningly under-educated on the drugs they’re being prescribed, so they end up selling the pills instead of taking them. Well-known for his investigative reporting on how Big Pharma manufactured the “A.D.H.D. Nation” through advertising and doctor bribery, Schwarz recently published his book A.D.H.D. Nation using a term he coined to describe the widespread mishandling and misdiagnosis of the disorder.
How A.D.H.D. Became An Over-Diagnosed Disorder
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 11% of children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with A.D.H.D. as of 2011. However, if you ask the American Psychiatric Association, they maintain that even though only 5% of American children suffer from the disorder, the diagnosis is actually given to around 15% of American children. This number has been steadily rising, jumping from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007. Schwarz identifies two main themes involved with A.D.H.D. misdiagnosis: the pharmaceutical industry’s role in pushing A.D.H.D. drugs, and doctors failing to identify the root cause of children’s behavioural issues.
In an interview with Scientific American, Schwarz explains: “Many kids have problems and need help—but those problems in many cases will derive from trauma, anxiety, family discord, poor sleep or diet, bullying at school and more. We must not abandon them. We must help. But we must also be more judicious in how we do that, rather than reflexively giving them a diagnosis of what is generally described as a serious, lifelong brain disorder.”