The dubious notion of “better living through pharmacology” should be questioned even more closely regarding the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder industry.
Historically, ADHD, as it's better known, affects an estimated 5 percent of children. Yet recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show 15 percent of high school-age children diagnosed with ADHD, and 3.5 million children — up from 600,000 in 1990 — on ADHD drugs. Analyzing that data, The New York Times finds ADHD now “narrowly trailing” only asthma among most frequent long-term diagnoses in children.
The Times says marketing stretches ADHD “to include relatively normal behavior like carelessness and impatience” and “has often overstated the pills' benefits.” Since 2000, the Food and Drug Administration has cited “every major” ADHD drug “for false and misleading” ads.
Online quizzes encourage ADHD treatment. Celebrities are paid to endorse ADHD drugs, doctors to push particular brands to colleagues; ads boost medical journals' page counts. ADHD materials are placed in schools. And drug makers increasingly target the far larger adult market.
It's time to question whether the ADHD industry's growth is a matter of genuinely better diagnosis and treatment — or of overdiagnosis, overprescription and downplaying ADHD drugs' abuse/addiction potential and side effects.
But the most basic question to be answered is whether the entrenched pharmacology-medical complex truly leads to better living or not.
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