My new book, Debunking ADHD: 10 Reasons to Stop Drugging Kids for Acting Like Kids, is scheduled to be released tomorrow, on April 1st. Really, no joke. To be honest, when my editor informed me of this unique release date, it didn’t strike me as the most complimentary day to publish research that has been years in the making and is ultimately a very serious subject. As time passed and the big day has slowly approached, however, the release date has come to feel completely serendipitous! April Fool’s Day is indeed the perfect day to re-energize a powerful movement to put an end to the drugging of kids for acting like kids. Like an unkind April Fool’s Day prank, ADHD is a complete joke.
A large body of evidence exists which suggests that the whole ADHD story could be best described as a scientific hoax that has grown out of control. The tragedy, of course, is that the joke is on us; but more specifically and sadly the prank has been pulled at our children’s expense. While America’s pranksters scheme out their plans for this Tuesday’s blitzkrieg of dastardly deeds, for those responsible for the ADHD hoax it’s just another day.
In the USA alone, under the guise of “take your medicine,” more than 4.5 million parents of children “diagnosed” ADHD have been bamboozled into administering harmful drugs daily; drugs the DEA classifies as highly addictive Schedule II narcotics. This means that approximately 2/3 of the children in the US with the diagnosis are being drugged. On April Fool’s Day, like any other day, ADHD drug manufacturers won’t have any time for “kick me” signs or prank calls or text messages, because they will be too busy laughing their way to the bank. As we prepare to be cautious this April Fool’s Day and to watch out for tricks and pranks, let’s look at a few pieces of evidence that start to document how ADHD is a farce to be reckoned with.
Not a Speck of Definitive Proof
After 60 years, the manufacturers of Ritalin still state in their medication guide, “The [drug’s] mode of action in man is not completely understood, but Ritalin presumably activates the brain stem arousal system and cortex to produce its stimulant effect.” One would presume with the billions upon billions of dollars they have made, and the fact that children are taking these drugs in the prime of their physical, social and neurological development, more definitive evidence of its safety and efficacy would’ve, could’ve, should’ve been produced.
The pharmaceutical giant Novartis, manufacturers of Ritalin and the more market savvy-named Focalin, go on to say, “There is neither specific evidence which clearly establishes the mechanism whereby Ritalin produces its mental and behavioral effects in children, nor conclusive evidence regarding how these effects relate to the condition of the central nervous system.” No conclusive evidence?!
Lack of scientific clarity regarding the effects of these drugs on our children’s central nervous systems should be cause for grave concern. Furthermore, we cannot forget about the long list of the drugs’ serious side effects stated in those same medication guides ranging from developing more serious mental disorders to hearing voices, having thoughts of depression and suicide, and even death. If you are wondering, the newer ADHD drugs do not have any stronger evidence or less serious lists of potentially life threatening side effects.
The Short End of the Shtick
ADHD drugs do not help students become better students. The drugs only help “annoying” students become “less annoying” students. A child’s future natural development process, however, is sacrificed for the short-term gains of a medicated compliance-induced education that turns highly creative children into hyper-focused zombies. And what about the long-term effects?
The most recent pro-ADHD researchers’ longitudinal study (referred to as the 2009 MTA study), found that after three years children taking ADHD drugs had their growth stunted at an average of .79 inches less than non-drugged ADHD kids. The list of not-so-wonderful outcomes for the drugged children in this study was long. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the study found that children still being given ADHD drugs by their parents six and eight years later “fared no better than their non-medicated counterparts, despite a 41% increase in the average total daily dose, failing to support continued medication treatment as salutary [helpful].” In simple terms, the drugs are bad for kids. Beyond medicating children into a drug-induced stupor, they are not serving any positive purpose in the development of healthy, caring and resilient children.
ADHD… the All Do Have Disorder
Even more troubling, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), has stated for decades that no test exists for ADHD. The DSM is the Bible used by mental health practitioners to diagnose patients in order to be paid by insurance companies. One must ask how 6.5 million kids in the USA could “test positive for” ADHD annually when no reliable or valid cognitive, medical, genetic or biological test even exists? The answer rests in creating a very forgiving diagnosis.
The 18 “symptoms” currently used to “diagnose” ADHD only reflect behaviors that nearly all children exhibit on a daily basis. Using common childhood behaviors to create symptoms does not justify a mental disorder, but it does explain why it is rare to find a child that went to a doctor to be diagnosed ADHD that did not leave with such a label. This is why I refer to ADHD as a Diagnosis of Normal or the All Do Have Disorder. Unbelievably, a child can be diagnosed a form of ADHD at the discretion of the ADHD “expert” even if they do not display any of the symptoms.
Summarizing the Large Margin for Error
Many adults and children want to believe ADHD is real. As an educator, psychologist and parent, sincerely, I understand why they feel this way. My “last nerve” has been tested far too often like many other exhausted adults, and at times have wished for a simple answer, a simple fix. But just as the frustrating experiences adults encounter when educating or raising children are quite normal, so are the behaviors associated with ADHD exhibited by millions of children. An abundance of research in child development and psychology documents that high levels of excitability and distractibility in kids are common and should not be considered abnormal behavior suggestive of a mental disorder. The truth is that the diagnosis for ADHD describes the behaviors many children experience when progressing gradually through developmental stages.
We also must not forget that many “real” disorders ordained by the DSM have been removed or radically reconfigured. According to the DSM, homosexuality was at one time considered a “sociopathic personality disorder” and autism spectrum disorders were thought to be a type of “childhood schizophrenia.” The truth is that the “experts” have been wrong before about the existence of certain disorders, and most likely are wrong again about ADHD. Also, and most importantly, the ADHD drug dealers have no idea what their “medicine” is doing to our kids.
No matter if you agree or disagree with me, it’s time for real dialogue on ADHD’s connection to kids! Let’s create a civil and common sense enriched discussion about the many other things the symptoms of ADHD can be linked to. Let’s focus less on drugs and more on a list of what educators and adults can do to manage and guide the behaviors of children. Before we agree to give kids addictive drugs that offer short-term quick-fixes in exchange for serious long-term side effects, let’s look more seriously at our alternatives. Until the drug companies selling these dangerous drugs provide real evidence showing conclusively that they know what the drugs do to our children, they deserve so much less… Less respect, less attention, less money, and certainly, less power in the mental health field. As concerned adults we must stop passively agreeing to continue drugging our kids for acting like kids; our kids deserve so much more.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.