Know anyone with ADHD? It’s getting harder and harder not to: the numbers have exploded. It generally pays to show due diligence and skepticism of such striking trends: diagnostic fads tend to overreach then recede eventually. In that vein, this article is important:
Some relevant quotes:
“Nearly 14 million monthly prescriptions for the condition were written for Americans ages 20 to 39 in 2011, two and a half times the 5.6 million just four years before, according to the data company I.M.S. Health.”
“…the tunnel-like focus the medicines provide has led growing numbers of teenagers and young adults to fake symptoms to obtain steady prescriptions for highly addictive medications that carry serious psychological dangers.”
“… many experts caution that savvy college graduates, freed of parental oversight, can legally and easily obtain stimulant prescriptions from obliging doctors… 8 percent to 35 percent of college students take stimulant pills to enhance school performance.”
A wise and usually conscientious Psychiatrist, a colleague of mine, summed it up: “People with ADHD function better on these meds. People without ADHD function better on these meds,” so increased academic performance hardly confirms diagnosis in of itself. This fact also explains the huge black market in these medicines, with patients selling or giving their meds to others looking for an edge at school or work.
An expert by no means, as an experienced Psychiatric Nurse I have long suspected that ADHD diagnosis and treatment are some of the weaker areas of typical psychiatric practice. We see diagnosis by Pediatricians on the basis of second or third-hand complaints by teachers all too often. We see obvious substance abuse and diversion of prescribed meds to others. We also see patients who very well may have legitimate ADHD and may benefit from treatment, yet also suffer dangerous adverse effects that lead to danger and hospitalization: irritability, paranoia, mood swings, impulsive rage, agitation, frank mania, psychosis, weight loss, insomnia. For many, treatment means taking amphetamines, the very same dangerous substances once called “Speed” on the street. Remember the saying, “Speed Kills” from the seventies? ADHD care is an area that deserves more scrutiny, and today the Times provides some.