ADHD Debate: Are We Treating Normal Childhood As A Disease?

Dean Chambers

A new book raises the question of whether Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is perhaps a fallacy that has led to normal childhood being considered a mental disorder to be treated with medications, Time magazine reports. The new book A Disease Called Childhood: Why ADHD Became an American Epidemic, by Marilyn Wedge, raises this important question.

Writing for Time, Dr. Wedge raises the question, "How did our image of childhood evolve so that behaviors once considered normal are now considered a disorder?"

Dr. Wedge wrote about a child named Noah, who didn't feel like himself after going on the prescription anti-depressant, Prozac. Noah told Dr. Wedge he felt like he had been turned into a teenage girl being on the drug.

"Reflecting on Noah's experience, I cannot help but wonder if the ADHD medications we now give to kids, especially boys (10 percent of high school boys in the United States currently take ADHD medication), are having an effect on them similar to the effect Prozac had on Noah," Dr. Wedge wrote, "These drugs enhance a child's ability to focus in the classroom and help him keep pace in competitive schools and in a competitive society. But in giving children ADHD drugs are we also reshaping their personalities and asking them to give up something basic to their authentic selves?"

Perhaps many traits of normal childhood have been defined as a mental illness, that has been labeled ADHD, for the purposes of treating this alleged mental illness with medications. Have millions of our children been put on drugs for being normal, Dr. Wedge asks.

"The notion of mental health or mental illness is relative to the values of a particular society at a particular time in history. Our hectic society paradoxically frowns on overly active children—even children as young as four or five years old. Our society wants children to be restrained, orderly, and eager to please adults. We have little tolerance for typically boyish traits such as bounciness, fidgetiness, and mischievousness. We want boys to sit still for hours in the classroom without physical exercise, pay attention to their teachers, and not throw spitballs. What's more, as a society we have decided (or at least acquiesced) to drug these annoying traits out of boys. This is more than moving the goalposts. It is more like changing the game," Dr. Wedge about about ADHD.

The profitability of ADHD medications might drive their sales and possible over-diagnosis of children with ADHD, Mother Jones magazine poses as an explanation for the rise in ADHD diagnosis and prescription of medications to young children in the United States.

"Attention deficit hyperactive disorder is big business. That's the conclusion of a new report, published by the market research firm IBISWorld, which showed that ADHD medication sales have grown eight percent each year since 2010 and will grow another 13 percent this year to $12.9 billion. Furthermore, it projects this growth will continue over the next five years at an annualized rate of six percent, and take in $17.5 billion in the year 2020—making it one of the top psychopharmaceutical categories on the market," Mother Jones reported.

Mother Jones also suggests that the requirement for coverage of mental health service under the Affordable Care Act (commonly called Obamacare) will lead to more children being diagnosed with ADHD and treated with medications. Additionally cited, is the factor of adult ADHD being defined as a diagnosis in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) used by psychiatrists and psychologists to define mental disorders.

"A 2014 report released by prescription drug management company Express Scripts calculated that the number of adults using ADHD medication increased more than 50 percent from 2008 to 2012. The IBISWorld report expects this number to continue growing "at a rapid pace" through 2020. This year, adults older than 19 will make up approximately 44 percent of the ADHD medication market, the report says. (The ADHD rate among children plateaued at around 11 percent of school-age children in 2011.)," Mother Jones reported.

The explosion of prescription of ADHD drugs should be questioned, the Inquisitr reported earlier this year.

"The sales of ADHD prescription medication are increasing rapidly and are expected to grow by another 13 percent this year alone. According to IBIS World, a new report shows ADHD medication has skyrocketed since 2010, and will continue to grow at an annualized rate of six percent per year, bringing in $17.5 billion by the year 2020," the Inquisitr reported.

[Photo of pills from Mother Jones magazine online.]