Welcome to Planet ADHD:
A Farce to be Reckoned With

Michael W. Corrigan, EdD
25
443

“But you don’t know my Billy…”

Hello and welcome to my inaugural blog! It’s an honor to join the insightful and talented team of writers at Mad in America. This exciting opportunity is the perfect complement to my efforts to help kids worldwide live childhood drug-free.  Or, more specifically and possibly more realistically, free of ADHD drugs. After all, as time will surely highlight, I am an optimistic pessimist.  A pragmatist, some might say.

My previous research has focused on improving our education system in the USA and helping kids  receive more fruitful academic and social experiences. Most of what I’ve written (e.g., books, chapters and publications) has had a more limited audience within the sometimes cloistered world of academia and education. I have a new book coming out in March 2014 with Roman and Littlefield, however, called Debunking ADHD: 10 Reasons to Stop Drugging Kids for Acting like Kids. I’m very excited about this book, because I think  the body of evidence it connects will help to change the entire landscape of the discussion surrounding ADHD. You can read more about the book and even pre-order a copy if you get the urge.

For the most part, this blog will focus on complementing what I am trying to accomplish through Debunking ADHD.  I want to share everything (and I mean everything) a concerned adult should know before they agree to become a part of, or continue being a part of, the hypothetical ADHD “epidemic.”  Beyond giving ten sound reasons why we shouldn’t be drugging kids for acting like kids (which might seem like no-brainers to many regular visitors to this website), the book is written to help parents, educators, and other concerned adults and professionals fully understand the extremely dubious nature of the ADHD diagnosis.

More importantly, my efforts are aimed at showing how dangerous the drugs often prescribed for such a supposed condition can be to kids in the prime of their neurological, psychological, social and physical development.  Parents, educators and other concerned adults deserve a resource that cuts through the pharmaceutical propaganda, and offers a more rational way forward.

There are many topics interconnected with ADHD, such as, how current medical, mental health, education and parenting practices are creating a vicious system very few children can escape from without the advocacy of supportive adults.  Coincidentally (or conveniently), this out-of-control, rush-to-judgment diagnosis trend is making billions for those in a not so family-friendly arm of the pharmaceutical industry. This blog will discuss such topics regularly, and also share news of more recent developments in the often surreal parallel universe I call Planet ADHD.

Please understand; I am a professor that teaches child development, educational psychology and research methods.  I am also a former child, who would with today’s practices, most assuredly have been labeled ADHD when I was younger. From my perspective, the ADHD movement seems surreal because the behaviors (or as some like to call them “symptoms”) associated with ADHD  are just signs of kids being kids!  These kids are displaying signs that they are bored and uninterested with what they are being provided at school and home.

The behaviors indicate that most kids have not yet learned or been convinced to adopt the social and behavioral expectations our society wishes they would.  It is as if a 5-year-old, someone who has been on this planet for just 60 or so short months, should know exactly how to behave at all times. As a result, behaviors related to extreme boredom and many other common childhood challenges might be annoying to the adults responsible for such kids.  For some strange reason many have been convinced that such behaviors justify drugging children!  In an upcoming blog I will focus on what these simple generic symptoms are, how few symptoms it takes to be diagnosed and medicated for ADHD, and how, basically, these symptoms insure that every child that goes to get a diagnosis of ADHD from an ADHD “expert” will leave diagnosed with ADHD.

We must remember that even the DSM-5, the diagnostic manual used to diagnose ADHD, readily admits that there is no test for ADHD.  Such evidence truly highlights the biggest conundrum of ADHD; how can we diagnose ADHD if we have no reliable or valid way to determine who has it and who does not?  To many of us, it makes absolutely no sense that 6.5 million kids in the USA can be diagnosed ADHD when the powers-that-be readily admit they have no way to identify it.  The fact that they use 18 symptoms that describe behaviors that nearly every child exhibits every day to some degree is just a sign they are providing a diagnosis of normal. The psychometrics (measurement) of ADHD is another rabbit hole I look forward to digging into in future blogs.

Beyond teaching future educators and mental health professionals, I also am very active in the trenches of education, serving the role as evaluator and sometimes principal investigator on numerous state and federal grants. My mission to debunk ADHD started one day when I was doing on-site research for one of my grants. I remember vividly driving home that day from studying children in a small rural elementary school after coming to the alarming discovery that more than a third of the kids I had lunch with were on ADHD drugs.

This event happened about 6 years ago, and like many of you that have experienced similar epiphanies, I reached a breaking point that day and suddenly found myself alarmed and disgusted with the fact that millions of kids are being drugged for what are just common childhood behaviors.  Never in our short history here on earth have we reached such a sad and depressing state of existence where we somehow now think it is perfectly normal and acceptable to drug a child into compliance and submission.  With adults willing to take such risks out of convenience – cloaked in the name of compassion – we might want to rethink whether it is the kids or the adults that have issues with delayed gratification and impulsivity.

Since my reputation for being against the ADHD diagnosis has grown within my small circle of influence, not a week – or, sometimes, day – goes by without a parent or educator wanting to ask me about it.  The conversation normally begins with them admitting they know I think it is a hoax, an invented disorder, but then they always seem to want to share the statement “. . . but you don’t know my (place child’s or student’s name here).” They seem to think their child’s or student’s behavior is so drastically different than millions of other children not diagnosed ADHD. They want to ignore advice and facts that show the diagnostic procedure for ADHD is a farce to be reckoned with.

They want to pay no heed that the drugs prescribed for ADHD can lead to more serious mental disorders, facial tics, permanent growth suppression, and even death.  Just use your favorite internet search engine to explore “medication guide” and “Vyvanse” (or any  of the other popularly prescribed ADHD drugs) and you will find an endless list of very scary side effects that should preclude anyone even considering ADHD drugs for children. Yet, despite the warnings from even the makers of these drugs, many want to hold on to the belief that such dangerous drugs are the “medicine” their child or student truly needs.

I will admit right now, if you think any child deserves to be forced to take drugs with an endless list of dangerous side effects on a daily basis for just being slightly or even rather hard to handle, then we are at this time living in two different worlds.  I have grown sick to my stomach of hearing adults say their child needs such “medicine.”  A medicine should not come with so many risks.  A medicine would help us get better, not cause our brains to malfunction or experience damage to our central nervous system.  As I will share in future blogs, the research on lab animals that have taken these medications (and experienced brain malfunctions and CNS damage) is all one needs to know when it comes to whether or not we should be giving ADHD-drugs to kids.

There is so much I look forward to sharing and discussing with you in the future. I sincerely thank you again for attending my inaugural blog, and I hope to see you back here soon. Maybe together we miraculously can get millions of kids and their parents off Planet ADHD and back down here to planet earth! Your “Billy”, and millions of other kids worldwide, deserve nothing less than to live childhood where their imaginations and bodies run free, and their exuberance, energy and creativity are embraced.

25 COMMENTS

  1. I am really, really looking forward to reading your book. This gives me so much hope. I am currently in a battle with teachers, doctors, and therapists regarding a child of mine who is simply a very alive and bright child who gets extremely bored in a school setting. I have been extremely clear with all of the adults involved in my child’s care about not wanting to medicate her. Thankfully, I haven’t actually had anyone tell me it is the only option. Thankfully, people are listening to what I have to say about it. But there is still an underlying pressure there.

    Besides being a parent (and former child), I am also a therapist, who has worked with kids, adolescents, and adults. I see firsthand the short-term effects of stimulants on children all the time – restlessness, anxiety, pressured speech, sleep disorders, sibling problems, etc. It is a complete yo-yo of an existence for these children, and I fear how their brains are going to be effected long-term. I was on Ritalin as an adult for two years and I have now been off it for two-and-a-half years. I am still paying a price. It was the worst kind of hell coming off of it fully, let alone how it made me feel when the effects wore off each day.

    Again, I am really looking forward to reading your book. I get the feeling it will be an incredible resource.

    • As a 37 year old who was on Ritalin for 8 years as a kid, they’d probably be OK if that’s the route you went down. But there are no guarantees. That said, you *should* push back against anyone that seems to be twisting your arm about medication, especially the teachers. It is illegal for teachers to even suggest ADHD or medication…

    • There is no science nor validity behind the diagnoses found in the DSM. Many were agreed upon by upper class white men as they washed their hands in the bathroom together.

      Most of the people on the committees that cooked up all of these things took money from the drug companies; talk about a conflict of interest. Many of the diagnoses pathologize normal human respnses; the DSM 5 now states that you have Major Depressive Disorder if you grieve more than two weeks for the death of a loved one. As a retired hospital and nursing home chaplain I know for a fact that this is just pure bull feces of the worst kind. PTSD should not be a diagnosis. The emotions, feelings and behavior that this diagnosis supposedly describes are the normal human responses to experiencing horrible things. Psychiatry has no right to pathologize normal human responses to the vissictitudes of life.

      As well as being a chaplain I am also a former high school teacher. I never once ran into a student that I would have labeled as having ADHD. As a student myself I never saw any kids in my classes from kindergarden to twelth grade that were ADHD. All of a sudden, in the 1980’s, this “diagnosis” popped up from out of nowhere. Of course, it was in the 1980’s that the drug companies began introducing all kinds of psychotropic drugs onto the scene here in America. I don’t think this was just a coincidence.

      I support your choice to believe that you had ADHD but I don’t believe that it really exists. I spent too much time in the classroom to come close to even believing in it. I also know how terribly boring American classroom are, especially for kids who are raised on visual techonolgy, which holds and entertains one’s attention much better than an adult standing in front of the classroom droning on and on about this or that while everyone, including the teacher, are bored to absolute tears. Also, some parents today would rather be able to poke a pill down their active kid who acts up and sasses rather than learn some real parenting skills that are more productive for everyone. I just don’t believe in it one, little bit.

  2. *facepalm*

    “From my perspective, the ADHD movement seems surreal because the behaviors (or as some like to call them “symptoms”) associated with ADHD are just signs of kids being kids!”

    From your perspective?! So you have no firsthand experience with ADHD? I was diagnosed in 1986 and put on Ritalin for 8 years. It helped. Did I *need* it? Maybe not, but it was also the only option available to my parents at the time. The authenticity of ADHD as a valid diagnosis is not questionable – there are behavior and functional differences in that population that set them apart from others. BUT a proper diagnosis – that rules out all other possibilities, needs to be in place first. The ‘epidemic’ of ADHD is indeed nonexistent per se, or manufactured. Too many kids and adults are mis-diagnosed, and too many clinicians give out Ritalin, Adderall, and others like they are aspirin.

    The medical and psychiatric communities, and drug companies have been irresponsible with this diagnosis. But make no mistake – it is real. I’ve been living with it my whole life (I was rediagnosed 3 times as an adult and tried meds again – though they didn’t work well for me as an adult – I’ve been off meds for years now, doing well). Some times have been easier, some times have been more difficult. Finding my place in life has mostly had to do with finding environments that worked well for my personality and behavior. And yes, as a small child, the stuffy nature of public schools was not good for me. I worked hard as I got older to find appropriate avenues for my energy and creativity. I’ve also worked to built a lot of flexibility into my professional life.

    I respect Robert Whitaker and love his books and work, but no where does he question the validity of the diagnosis – that I recall. Questioning the validity of the ADHD diagnosis does more harm than good. It IS noble work to push meds away as a first-line treatment as they are here in the US, and look for better ways of accomodating people, especially kids, who don’t do well in ‘regular’ settings, and finding where they will shine.

    I am aware of the dangers of all the major ADHD drugs. I’ve been on most of them. I’m currently writing my own book about my own experiences (and making use of my own medical records as well). So I understand the fight to find better solutions because yes, these meds are NOT a solution – they are a stop-gap at best and there is growing acceptance in the medical and mental health community of the reality that these meds don’t help long term, and may cause more problems.

    You also write, “The behaviors indicate that most kids have not yet learned or been convinced to adopt the social and behavioral expectations our society wishes they would. It is as if a 5-year-old, someone who has been on this planet for just 60 or so short months, should know exactly how to behave at all times. ”

    This isn’t about ‘learned’ behavior necessarily. I still encounter situations as a 37 year old man in which it is nearly impossible for me to control my behaviors, my emotional reactions, etc. I’ve gotten pretty good at it. But I was terrible as a kid – I lacked those controls completely – my development was behind my peers.

    Interestingly, I am in the process of raising a daughter who is almost exactly like I was as a kid. As a girl she’s a little better in school. And my wife and I will do everything in our power to avoid the question of medication because I don’t think that’s a choice I could make. It’s an issue I still struggle with – would I be who I am without Ritalin? I don’t know. Possibly. Possibly not. There are a lot of factors at play.

    I’m hoping your book takes a more nuanced approach because based on this post you don’t understand ADHD at all. If your mission is simply for us to stop medicating ADHD kids then “Debunking ADHD” is a terrible title for a book.

    And finally, I have tried to avoid any personal attacks and I’m sorry if I come across as a jerk, but this shit pisses me off.

    • Tylerpage, I was never diagnosed with ADD/ADHD but I’m absolutely certain I would have been given this diagnosis both as a kid and adult had the diagnosis been in fashion when I was child. My particular case, however, may have precluded a diagnosis as there was some emotionally traumatic events in my past to which I developed a convenient way of checking out, a habit that unfortunately lasted into adulthood.

      I’ve spent many years reading psychiatry, have a MSW, did two years graduate/practicum work in outpatient psychiatry clinics, practiced psychotherapy including psychotherapy with young adults diagnosed with ADD and I have a research background, though not as extensive as some here including Michael Corrigan.

      Validity is a research term. The current head of the NIMH as well as many mainstream writers/researchers in the major psychiatric journals have over the past two years basically admitted what many critics of psychiatry have known for decades; there is no validity to any mental health diagnosis for the simple reason that there has never been any reliable and measurable biomarker of any psychiatric illness, unless that illness derived from proven neurological diseases such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Huntingtons, etc.

      I don’t see anything in Michael’s blog at this point that invalidates – using “validity” as a judgement – the experience of people who have trouble focussing/attending to tasks. If you find medication(s) helpful then that’s great. You should also, however, like all people prescribed any medication be given accurate information about the diagnosis, including it’s validity or lack thereof, the possible side effects of medication and alternatives. This is ethical practice and unfortunately the vast majority of people who encounter psychiatry/medical model don’t receive this standard of care.

      I also think we need to be careful to not assume that criticizing the concept of ADD/ADHD as a valid mental health disorder is invalidating people who have received this label or struggle with emotional difficulties. Simply because people, especially young children with developing brains, have trouble attending does not mean there is a disorder or brain dysfunction. In some cases a child may have a learning disability but again this is not disease or disturbance of the soma. There is diversity of attentional states/learning styles and developmental ability. We should not be in the business of medicalizing these natural differences. A greater sensitivity to the fact that young boys develop neuro-cognitively/developmentally than girls is helpful. And having greater sensitivity, skill and diversity of approach to young children in the educational system would go a long way to helping get the assistance they need if they’re struggling with attending in school and/or disengaged from school.

      My son, now 9, was identified in Grade 2 as being possibly ADHD. I knew this would happen eventually. My son since JK was very energetic and his style of learning – he needs to stand often while working or move/pace when working out a problem – easily flags him for the diagnosis. Interestingly, this behaviour was limited to school, which even by the DSM IV critiera – TWO settings need to be involved – makes the diagnosis questionable. When his teacher figured out with our input that this developmentally normal behaviour and that my son actually hears better and retains information better when allowed to move and not badgered to look directly at the teacher things improved dramatically. My son, now in Grd 4 is doing well. His GP and principal were initially convinced he had ADHD. He was lucky to not be so easily led into psychiatry and what helped him was a teacher who allowed input from us as parents and worked to engage him in a more sensitive/allowing/wise manner.

      I know there are many people, perhaps yourself, who feel that medication is/was necessary and if you feel that way and it works for you then fine. We’d all do better, however, and I know I’d have done better as a young child, if children/parents were given greater support and effective psycho-educational practices that are easy to learn, take time/discipline and can have long-last positive impact on a child’s learning.

      cheers,

  3. @tyler, “finding environments that worked well for my personality and behavior” Congrats for moving your life in this direction.

    @Michael, Spot on!

    The diagnosis and the drugs are causing way more harm than good. The drugs and their side effects have devastated the lives of many kids that I know personally. Shame on the drug companies because the parents and teachers are but innocent participants in this crime on the mind.

    I long for the day when we can celebrate the individual spirit as a special gift.

  4. This is my former psychiatrist’s proof ADHD is a valid disorder:

    http://www.drrobertkohn.com/pdfs/ADHD%20Presentation%20Fact%20or%20Fiction.pdf

    Please consider assisting me in proving this piece of garbage, who declared my entire life a “credible fictional story” in my medical records, so he could rationalize his attempted murder of me via anticholinergic intoxication poisoning, which he called “bipolar,” has no actual science behind his drug everyone for profit, and try to keep the child molesters on the streets because they’re bringing “psychiatric practitioners” in profits, belief system. Please, Michael?

    And I agree, it is amazing how pharmaceutical false advertising of “me, too, drugs” has made a mockery of the medical industry by showing that “so many have forgotten what we learned about these drugs decades ago.” What a scam mainstream medicine has become, due to greed, and abuse of trust and power.

    • The guy uses a lot of pictures and big words to obscure a couple of very important facts. First off, the neuroimaging studies are averaged over groups of children. There is no specific pattern of activity that is shared by all “ADHD” children, or they’d use it for diagnosis. Smoke and mirrors. Also, the PET and SPECT scans measure glucose uptake, which is assumed to associate with activity levels. This only shows how the brain is being USED at a particular time, not what it is capable of or what structural defects may be present. As to the “smaller brain” arguments, these studies don’t control for stimulant use, which is known to reduce brain volume over time.

      Beyond that, the author fails to demonstrate any REASON why the “ADHD” child’s activities are behind the developmental curve. We know from many years of research that kids’ normal development can look very different from person to person, and that these developmental targets are only averages with a large range of variation. For instance, it can be normal to walk anywhere from 10 months to 18 months of age. Speech can develop anywhere from 9 months to 2 years and still be normal. These are huge percentages of a young child’s life! Why do we expect all children to develop the same level of executive functioning at the same age? It’s also well documented that boys’ executive functioning develops later than girls, on the average. You’ll notice there is no way that this person offers to determine what is “normal” and “minimially functional” for any child at any age. He simply states that some kids are behind in that area of development. This is obvious and would apply to any area of development. It doesn’t make it a disease.

      Finally, he completely fails to answer the vitally important question: does your intervention actually improve the long-term development in the areas you claim are deficient? As I explained above, the answer to this question is a resounding NO! Stimulant treatment doesn’t appear to improve any long-term outcome area of significance on the average when compared to non-treated ADHD-diagnosed peers.

      A fancy presentation that proves exactly nothing. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. The Great Oz has spoken!”

      —- Steve

  5. Between drugs and coercive measures I had to leave special ed. in 2004. Can’t believe I stumble in here today and find your thoughtful article on drugs, children and education. Spot on assessment of the situation but I’d throw in the “you will learn by intimidation” meme that pervades education as well.

    I thought it all utter insanity. Since, I developed a toolkit to evaluate the behavioral memes using intellectual standards found here: http://criticalthinking.org/pages/critical-thinking-where-to-begin/796 and assessing using NOT psychology but using the ethological perspective of genotype and phenotype, evolution, adaption, neurological, mutation, and social context which all basically follows Tinbergen’s four questions.

    See for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethology or http://www.nel.edu/21_6/NEL21062000X001_Klein_.pdf
    for a brief or in-depth overview of ethology.

    And since most educators educated in the US aren’t familiar with ethology and it’s vastly superior science methods when compared to psychology or psychiatry -we are in the dark as to the validity of what we are now doing. It is troubling, but I think you are on the way to shining the light on the creepy underside of misdiagnosis, fear and greedy profits.

  6. Thank you so much for writing this.

    Never in our short history here on earth have we reached such a sad and depressing state of existence where we somehow now think it is perfectly normal and acceptable to drug a child into compliance and submission. With adults willing to take such risks out of convenience – cloaked in the name of compassion – we might want to rethink whether it is the kids or the adults that have issues with delayed gratification and impulsivity.

    Absolutely love it.

  7. I grew up on the immediate release dexedrine tablets they used to make until 2006. I can say I have been prescribed everything else and it felt like my heart was going to blow out etc even different brands of dexedrine. Vyvanse felt nothing like Dexedrine but the Dexedrine Spansules felt subduing and weird. Desoxyn did nothing at all.

    I was put on it for being hyper and having a big mouth… I was never an attention issue. I take one of the crappy tablets they make now and they make me very quiet, settled, mature.

    I thought ritalin felt like it was a roller coaster and all of these new long acting meds I had to take were HORRIBLE and that 3-5 hour crashes are rough too… everything including caffeine and all but one brand of dexedrine tablets (mallinsckrodt) all feel like they are doing a number on my body and appetite. I think these are horrible and the one I would take in some instances is off the market…

  8. Hi. I’m so glad to have found your work, and am looking forward to reading your book. My story is like many others, I’m sure: we are getting pressured by the school to have our 6 year old son diagnosed; he is clever and funny and soooo smart — he spends time daydreaming in his first grade class, which apparently, bothers the teacher. We have pushed back — medication is OUT of the question, and we are not interested in a diagnosis — but the school is pushing harder; school has barely been in session for two weeks! I’m wondering what else can we do? What are the next steps? My concern is that if we disobey the school, our son will get marginalized. It seems like a lose-lose situation, and I would like to change that. Thank you.