ADHD is back in the news!
One of those articles focused on the latest findings of the CDC in their recently published National Survey of Children’s Health.
Here are the essential findings.
Nearly 20% of high school age boys and 11% of school-age children over all have been diagnosed with ADHD. That’s about 6.4 million children and adolescents!
During the past decade, the number of children diagnosed with ADHD has risen by 41%! That is, by definition, an epidemic.
Roughly 66% of those children diagnosed with ADHD are treated with stimulant drugs! Our friend and colleague, Psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin, years ago called this “a massive experiment in pharmacological engineering the likes of which no society or nation has ever seen before”.
The situation has gotten so bad that even some ardent proponents of the ADHD diagnosis and drugging of children are becoming alarmed. Dr. Ned Hallowell who once wrote, I kid you not, that ADHD is so prevalent in the US because it is part of our national DNA, is now having second thoughts. As recently as a year ago Halloway wrote in a NY Times editorial that Ritalin and other stimulants were “safer than aspirin”. Last week, he said, “I regret the analogy and won’t be saying that again.” He still thinks that many children with ADHD go unrecognized and untreated, but now admits that the high rates demonstrate how the diagnosis is being handed out too freely.
So, what is the real deal with all of this? Do we really have an epidemic of the disease ADHD? If so, why? If not, why are so many children being diagnosed with it? In either case what is the best way to deal with it? And better yet, how can we prevent it? Well, those questions are far too complex to tackle in one short blog so this is going to be a multi-blog effort. Do stay tuned for more reflections on this very important topic in the coming weeks.
One of the striking aspects of the ADHD phenomenon is that it is a distinctly American “illness” or “condition”. I spoke on the subject 13 years ago at the Vatican to a largely international, professional audience and most of those in attendance knew very little about ADHD at a time when it was old news here in the US. I warned them that the train was headed their way and, sure enough, today one finds talk of ADHD throughout Europe and South America.
[callout title=Hallmarks of Homo sapiens…]Creativity, entrepreneurship, independence and vision are some of the finest expressions of the human brain when developed to its fullest potential.[/callout]
Nonetheless, the highest rates of diagnosis and treatment, by far, are in the United States. So why is that? Could Dr. Halloway be right about there being a distinctly American gene for ADHD? He suggests that people who were distractible, impulsive and restless but also creative, entrepreneurial, independent and visionary were the ones who colonized this country. Since all of those are traits (good and bad) of ADHD, ergo, they all had ADHD!
So the reason we see such an epidemic of ADHD in our country and not in others is because we attract those who carry DNA with the same traits of our colonial ancestors! WOW!
While that might be an entertaining subject for conversation at a cocktail party it is ridiculous from a scientific standpoint. And, of course, there is not an ounce of scientific proof. To begin with, the idea that distractibility, impulsiveness, restlessness, creativity, entrepreneurship, independence and vision are indicators of a genetic condition that needs treatment is preposterous on the face of it.
There are a thousand reasons, none of which have the slightest connection to genetics, why I might be distracted, might react impulsively or become restless. The stress of work, insufficient sleep, too much ice cream, lack of self-control… all of these things can affect how I respond to the requirements of daily living.
As for creativity, entrepreneurship, independence and vision, these qualities are indeed part of our DNA. They are some of the finest expressions of the human brain when developed to its fullest potential. They are the hallmarks of Homo sapiens, not of ADHD!