ADHD Advocate Says ADHD Diagnosis Rates are a “Disaster”


The New York Times quotes Keith Connors, an early advocate to legitimize Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as saying that current rates of diagnosis and prescription of the disorder are “a national disaster of dangerous proportions” and “a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”

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From the article:

“After more than 50 years leading the fight to legitimize attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Keith Conners could be celebrating.

“Severely hyperactive and impulsive children, once shunned as bad seeds, are now recognized as having a real neurological problem. Doctors and parents have largely accepted drugs like Adderall and Concerta to temper the traits of classic A.D.H.D., helping youngsters succeed in school and beyond.

“But Dr. Conners did not feel triumphant this fall as he addressed a group of fellow A.D.H.D. specialists in Washington. He noted that recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the diagnosis had been made in 15 percent of high school-age children, and that the number of children on medication for the disorder had soared to 3.5 million from 600,000 in 1990. He questioned the rising rates of diagnosis and called them “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.”

“‘The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous,’ Dr. Conners, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University, said in a subsequent interview. ‘This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.'”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. What seems to be left out this article is how stimulants for ADHD is just the beginning, many of these kids are then given another drug for the anxiety depression insomnia crash that occurs after the stimulant wears off. There are also many children who start having symptoms of amphetamine psychosis that “coincidentally” has almost the exact same symptoms as the new fad “child bipolar” that ‘requires’ those brain disabling mood pills that are alot less fun than being on speed.

    The worst thing has to be that trash “Strattera” it’s almost like an ADHD right of passage to be subjected to trying that Eli Lilly’s failed anti depressant experiment leftover drug for 6 weeks during treatment. Almost every single person who writes about Strattera online in those mental health ADD ADHD forums reports that Strattera was useless and had nasty ‘side’ effects.

    Non stimulant ADHD treatment is the biggest fraud of all.

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  2. The fact that the New York Times published this is very important. The article makes the Times’ opinion about the dangerous disease-mongering of the drug companies very clear. They have also recently published several small articles featuring actual psychiatric patients that I think are very significant. One was from a woman who, when her doctors learned she had a “bipolar” label, essentially ignored and refused to treat her very real physical illnesses. The other, very recently, followed a veteran who made a suicide attempt, then relented and signed himself into a psych ward, expecting help. All he got, of course, was a bunch of drugs and a disdainful attitude from the staff and doctors. This would be well-known to us survivors, but very important and enlightening information to the typical Times reader. I wonder where this apparently new editorial policy is coming from.

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    • Maybe this new editorial policy has something to do with that ‘new’ ADHD drug Vyvance. Shire did some chemical hocus pocus to get a new patent on old school Dexedrine by making it ‘long acting’ but the only thing long acting is the horrible crash and other side effects. They sell it as new and improved but like most people that try it I found it was anything but improved.

      I’m thinking the aggressive marketing of this inferior drug Vyvance to increase profits has contributed to the backlash .

      Vyvance is another case where almost all online reports by users clash with marketing claims.

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  3. I don’t really think there is a problem with consenting adults using these stimulant drugs. I am a huge fan of human rights in mental health obviously, but I am not a fan of the “war on drugs.”

    Alcohol works great on shyness but the law sais you need to be 21 to buy it. Amphetamines do increase attention focus but like alcohol the are dangerous and addictive.

    As someone who has used Dexadrine , Adderal and Ritalin I would never give it to a child. Ya it “works” but damb its powerful mind altering shit, that’s for sure.

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  4. I agree with you Ted that it is important that the New York Times published this article, as well as other smaller articles from survivor’s point of view. This kind of coverage is long overdue. My only complaint is that the article seemed to place the most ‘blame’ for this epidemic on marketing directed at children and parents, but in actuality, the doctors are supposed to be educated enough to make diagnosis and treatment decisions without being influenced by consumers who are in turn, influenced by advertising. If the marketing machine of big Pharma has changed our culture through marketing, and if researchers and academics are bought off, it is the clinicians who are the last defense in this war against misinformation. It is the clinicians who should rightfully be the watchdogs, helping to restore scientific and medical integrity to a system that has absolutely gone mad, by virtue of their education and training. Unfortunately, that is not the role that they are choosing to fill. Instead, they are remaining silent for the most part, afraid to risk their careers, prestige, retirement security, etc. No many lives have been lost to unjust and oppressive public health policies because too many ordinary people remained silent and afraid.

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    • Many doctors are clueless, this doctor at a drug and alcohol rehab I met likes to suggest Vyvance for people recovering from alcohol and drugs for ADD after reading all the cleaver marketing pushing the idea that Vyvance is less abusable or somehow less likely to lead to a relapse.

      That’s totally absurd, if any of the stimulant ADD drugs were going to cause a relapse it would be Vyvance because that special Vyvance extended edgy anxiety ridden crash that just goes on and on for hours would have the user crawling out of there skin looking for a drink or a drug to get right.

      Actually this doctor was just a physicians assistant, it was funny how all the clients would make fun of how she would go on sites like ‘web md’ in order to answer patient questions. Whats not funny is the doctor rubber stamped everything she did.

      I heard her and the doctor talking in the hall one day and he tells her “Axis one and get em medicated” like it was some assembly line process they were taking part in.

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  5. It’s wonderful and somewhat surprising that the Times published this, and hopefully their next piece will be about antipsychotics. My hope is that Progressives and libertarians band together to pass laws sharply curtailing the power of Big Pharma. No more advertising (especially ads aimed at kids). No more payments to doctors for lectures. No more “informational lunches” in hospitals and medical centers. No more pamphlets at educational centers such as NAMI. No more hiding studies from public view. No more false advertising presented as science. And on and on.

    We have allowed these folks to accrue far too much power.

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  6. “My hope is that (PEOPLE) band together to (HONOR JUSTICE) sharply curtailing the power of Big Pharma. No more advertising (especially ads aimed at kids). No more payments to doctors for lectures. No more “informational lunches” in hospitals and medical centers. No more pamphlets at educational centers such as NAMI. No more hiding studies from public view. No more false advertising presented as science. And on and on.


    Thank you for your words. I hope you won’t be upset or offended by my “edits”. I just wanted to say exactly what you said, but in my own words. Reiteration. Reverberation.

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    • Yeah it’s cool. I was just thinking about how mass movements that historically changed widespread policy generally started with progressive movements. That includes fighting child labor laws, the eight hour workday, maternity leave, ending gender discrimination in the workplace, etc. I think the needs to be a fight on many fronts…fighting within the court system, fighting in the political system and fighting from outside the establishment such as what goes on here.

      All hands on deck.

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  7. For Keith Connors to say this publicly is pretty huge. Connors was the creator of one of the more famous rating scales that teachers and parents used to rate a kid for “ADHD” and other “symptoms.” He was 100% mainstream. Nobody’s going to get away with calling him an “antipsychiatrist.” I’m pretty jazzed to hear that he made these kinds of statements to the NYT. When the insiders start calling it a disaster, it is hard for even the most hard-line psychiatric adherents to pretend that it’s all OK.

    —- Steve

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  8. My one big regret about this is that no one in the backwater where I live and work ever reads the NYT. They can’t be bothered. We’re at least ten years behind everywhere else in this country and the people are proud of being behind! Hard to believe but it’s totally true.

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  9. Vivance is being sold as a prodrug or non-abusable according to Russell Barkley because they put a tail on the amphetamine. The claim of being non-abusable seems misleading. Just because it isn’t good to snort or inject only indicates it’s less abusable but still addictive.

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