What's With The Massive Spike In ADHD Diagnoses?

by Krystin Arneson

As diagnoses of attention-deficit hyperactive disorder in high-schoolers leaps from 600,000 to 3.5 million, so has the prevalence of drug ads targeted at the demographic. Now, an entire 15 percent of high-schoolers are diagnosed with ADHD, and with the spike of diagnoses has come a jump in prescribed meditation for the disorder — and some say that over-diagnosis and over-medicating is snowballing.

One of the leading advocates for the legitimization of ADHD, Duke University psychologist and professor emeritus Dr. Keith Connors, has questioned the increase in diagnoses, calling it a disaster of "national disaster of dangerous proportions."

"The numbers make it look like an epidemic," he said. "Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous. This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”

Even the man behind Adderall, Robert Griggs, is against the drug's widespread prescription, calling the stimulants' effect on the brain akin to "nuclear bombs."

Over the last two decades, the pharmaceutical industry's output of ADHD drugs has seen a massive increase. According to CDC data, ADHD is now the second most-frequent long-term diagnosis made in children. But there's a big problem: every single one of the drugs meant to treat adults and children alike have gone through the courts for being misleading in their advertising since 2000, if not downright false.

And then there's the marketing efforts aimed right at children: Drug manufacturer Shire recently subsidized 50,000 copies of a comic book that utilizes comic-book-style superheroes to tell children: "Medicines may make it easier to pay attention and control your behavior!"

But at what cost? Well, the drug companies have certainly benefited: According to data company IMS Health, sales of stimulant medication in 2012 were nearly $9 billion. That's over five times the $1.7 billion a decade earlier.

Still, don't get all conspiracy-theory about the issue just yet. Notes behavioral pediatrician Dr. Lawrence Diller: “Pharma pushed as far as they could, but you can’t just blame the virus. You have to have a susceptible host for the epidemic to take hold. There’s something they know about us that they utilize and exploit.”