Is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) an onrushing epidemic that’s taking over the nation? You could be forgiven for drawing that conclusion after The New York Times published an analysis of new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which said that almost 20 percent of high school boys have been diagnosed with the disease. Eleven percent of all schoolchildren had reportedly received the diagnosis.
The statistics are mind-numbing. That’s over six million children between the ages of 4 and 17 who have been diagnosed, a 53 percent increase in only ten years. The majority of cases are treated with prescription drugs that have a side effect of enhancing academic performance — Ritalin, Provigil, and Adderall. For the record, Provigil is FDA-approved only for the treatment of sleeping disorders, and it’s illegal to prescribe it to patients under 18. But the other two drugs may be prescribed to as many as two-thirds of minor children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
In 2008, the CDC said that about 5 percent of children between the ages of six and 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD, with twice as many boys being diagnosed as girls. At the time, the increase in diagnoses was already increasing at a rate of three percent every year.
In 2011, the CDC reported that the rate in all ages of children had reached 9 percent.
And now it could be 11 percent — and much more in certain groups, such as high school boys.
And it isn’t because ADHD is a virus raging in our schools like chicken pox. Thomas R. Frieden, the CDC’s director, told The New York Times that prescription medications could be a blessing to help the right patient but their “misuse appears to be growing at an alarming rate.”
The problem is, if a drug is making another kid smarter, do you want your kid to be left behind? The issue has raised such a furore that a group of doctors from the Yale School of Medicine and the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) published a statement in mid-March reminding pediatricians that smart drugs are not supposed to be prescribed to healthy kids.
The trouble is, if a savvy high school age child is being pressured to compete, he’ll probably figure out that the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) just aren’t that hard to fake.
[classroom photo David Shankbone via Wikipedia Commons]