ADHD: Overdiagnosis, over-treatment, and abuse

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There has been a drastic rise in the number of diagnosed cases of ADHD Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in American children over the last decade, according to new data released by the CDC.

One in five high school boys and 11 percent of school-age children have received diagnoses, totaling about 6.4 million children ages 4 through 17. These numbers represent a 53 percent rise over the past decade. And of these children, two-thirds are receiving prescriptions for stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall (paradoxically, such stimulants have been shown to improve the behavioral issues of ADHD).

This number may sound high, but it s likely to increase even more, as the American Psychiatric Association is going to be changing the definition of ADHD. Proposed changes include: Requirement that symptoms appear before age 12 rather than age 7 and the requirement that symptoms impact daily activities, rather than imply causing impairment.

With this anticipated increase in the number of diagnoses, prescriptions are also expected to rise. But CDC director, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden warns, The right medications for ADHD given to the right people can make a huge difference. Unfortunately, misuse appears to be growing at an alarming rate.

And experts believe this may be partly the fault of doctors who are quick to use complaints of inattention as warranting a diagnosis of ADHD . They also say that parents are playing a role in that they are urging doctors to prescribe stimulants to help with their children s behavior.

Dr. Ned Hallowell, a child psychiatrist, warns that it s now time to call attention to the dangers that can be associated with making the diagnosis in a slipshod fashion. That we have kids out there getting these drugs to use them as mental steroids that s dangerous.