Attention Deficit Disorder has been around for a long time. It has not always carried the same name, but the symptoms, and treatments are virtually the same. Recently, ADD has become a disease that everybody seems to have. It comes as no surprise that people are abusing and overusing the label ADD. Some of these people are doctors. These doctors have the ability to diagnose ADD, and they are doing so. Some doctors over-diagnose ADD. Unfortunately, it is the patients who suffer terribly. Attention Deficit Disorder is grossly over-diagnosed causing unnecessary drug interactions, labeling, and other unnecessary acts to occur. There are many people and organizations that benefit from over-diagnosing ADD including ADD support organizations, parents, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies.
Attention deficit disorder does not have a clear definition. But it has been said that ADD is the most commonly diagnosed disorder in children (Grossman). Its origins are unknown, but according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is speculated that ADD is due to these factors: genetics, prenatal complications, and neurotransmitter deficits.
While the cause is unknown, the symptoms are apparent. The symptoms of ADD are classified into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary symptoms are due to the disorder itself. These symptoms include distractibility, impulsivity, restlessness, and hyperactivity; also known as the Big Four (Sears 8). Secondary symptoms are due to the primary systems going unnoticed and the ADD going untreated. Some secondary symptoms are low self-esteem, depression, boredom and frustration with school, impaired peer relations, violent behavior due to mounting frustrations, and sometimes alcohol and drug abuse (Hallowell 52). Unfortunately, these symptoms are not always the same in every child with ADD.
There are no set rules when it comes to ADD. Not all children have the same symptoms. This makes it hard to properly diagnose this disease. There are no blood tests, psychological tests, or brain scans that can definitely point to a person with ADD (Jardin). The only test most doctors use is a checklist where the child’s inattention, distractibility, and impulsivity are rated (Smith). Some doctors ask a series of questions about a child’s performance in school and their feelings. This leaves a lot of room for error.
It is said that 5 million children have ADD (Alexander-Roberts 1). 50% of those children will not have it when they become adults (Armstrong 13). It is doubtful that all of those children become “cured.” There is no cure for ADD. It is more likely that most of these children never had ADD at all.
There are quite a few treatments for ADD. These include drugs, therapy, and a change in diet (called the Feingold diet) (Shaughnessy). The most popular treatment is drugs. The drugs most often used are Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Cylert (Alexander-Roberts 3). Ritalin is the most popular of those drugs, and it is most commonly used in the United States.
Ritalin is a federally regulated stimulant used to treat hyperactivity in children since the 1960’s (Kamps). It, like any drug, can be harmful if improperly used. If a child does not have ADD, but they are prescribed Ritalin, there are going to be side effects. That is what is happening. “1.5 million children, ages 5-18 or 2.8% of U.S. school age children, take Ritalin,” a researcher for the journal Pediatrics reported. According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Ritalin use went up 250% from 1990 to 1998 (Kissinger). Another article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported Ritalin prescriptions for patients aged two to four had tripled between 1991 and 1995 (Fried). That is quite a usage increase. There is an explanation. ADD is being over-diagnosed.
Attention Deficit Disorder seems to be more prevalent in males than in females. One ratio that has been published is 2.5:1 (Munden 49). Another is 4:1 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Those differences are quite large. There has to be a reason. The reason has been found.
ADD is over-diagnosed because there are many people who want it that way. When there is money to be made, there are people willing to do anything to get it even if it means harming children. That is what is being done.
There are many people willing to take advantage of a money-making situation. These people include doctors, drug makers, support groups, and negligent parents. Doctors are always looking for a way to make money. If ADD is diagnosed more often, it is more than likely that Ritalin is going to be prescribed. This would make the drug companies happy, especially the maker of Ritalin, Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals (Denton).
Support groups such as CHADD and ADDA are always looking for new members. They are also looking for new people to pay dues. Negligent parents benefit from over-diagnosing ADD because he/she no longer have to deal with their unruly child. It is a way out of proper parenting.
ADD has to be over-diagnosed because most children diagnosed with ADD no longer have the disorder when they become adults. Diseases just don’t disappear. It is impossible for them to do so.
The world is always looking for a way to label something or someone. Labeling a child with Attention Deficit Disorder is just another way of doing that. In our world today, everything has a label. Unruly children couldn’t be called “unruly children.” There had to be a catchier name. Why not ADD?
Others would say that most people are not looking for money. Some might say that all parents want to help their children, and that they would never do anything to harm their offspring. Some might say that support groups are there to give support. Some might say that ADD does recede over time. Some might say that society doesn’t want to label people. It only wants to help people. It just isn’t so.
In today’s world, one cannot live without money. It is impossible. People are in the business to make money, plain and simple. There is no way to get around that. Doctors need money in order to keep their practice afloat. A doctor might be willing to take a child that has some of the symptoms of ADD and diagnose him/her as such. For instance, if a child had the behavior of Julian in the movie BigDaddy, a doctor might be willing to say that child has ADD, when it isn’t so. The child is just misbehaving and unruly.
Drug companies have to have money in order to operate. It is good business for them if they make the leading treatment for a common children’s disease, especially if that disease is being diagnosed more and more often. They might even offer doctors part of the money to diagnose a child with Attention Deficit Disorder, a kick-back if you will, and then prescribe Ritalin to control the ADD. That is a worst-case scenario.
Not all parents want the best for their children. Everyone knows that abuse goes on. That happens to be the world we live in today, unfortunately. Parents all over the world abuse their children. It happens every day in homes across the country, across the world. Negligence is a form of abuse. There are parents who don’t want to deal with their children. If one of those parents could get their child diagnosed with ADD, then their child would be complacent, and the parent wouldn’t have to deal with the child.
Support groups are not always in place to help others. If a support organization has dues, it is acceptable, but those dues cannot be outrageous amounts. Children with ADD come from all walks of life. Some of these children do not come from wealthy families. The child’s family cannot pay large amounts of money to help their child and the rest of the family cope with Attention Deficit Disorder. A support group should recognize this and not charge the members outrageous dues.
ADD cannot recede over time. It is physically and biologically impossible for such a disease to do so. If the disease is genetic, those genes cannot be altered to make the disease go away. As of yet, it is not medically possible to change the genetic code in such a way as to make that type of disease go away.
Society always wants to label people. There are labels for everything. Think about everybody one would see in a day. He or she might see a blue-collar worker, a corporate woman, a punk teenager, or a fraternity man. All of those people carry labels with them. These labels were placed on them by society.
Attention Deficit Disorder is grossly over-diagnosed causing unnecessary drug interactions, labeling, and other unnecessary acts to occur. There are many people and organizations that benefit from over-diagnosing ADD including ADD support groups, negligent parents, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies. Eventually someone up high enough will realize that ADD is being over-diagnosed. Someone will realize that there are children in the world suffering because of unnecessary medication. Someone will realize that children are being used to make money. Some children are suffering and it’s not worth it.
1. Alexander-Roberts, Colleen. The ADHD Parenting Handbook: Practical Advice for Parents from Parents. Dallas: Taylor, 1994.
2. Armstrong, Thomas, Ph. D. The Myth of the A.D.D. Child: 50 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion. New York: Plum, 1997.
3. Big Daddy. Dir. Dennis Dugan. Prod. Sid Ganis, and Jack Giarraputo. Perf. Adam Sandler, Jon Stewert, Cole Sprouse, and Dylan Sprouse. Columbia Pictures, 1999.
4. Denton, John. “ADHD/ADD.” Sociology 131. Eastern Kentucky University. 21 Sept. 1999.
5. Fried, Stephen. “Sex, meds, and Teens: Scenes from the New (Legal) Drug Culture.” Rolling Stone. 11 May 2000: 52-56.
6. Grossman, Kate N. “Drugs Called Best Treatment for Disorder: Behavioral
Treatment Less Effective for Kids with Attention Deficit, Study Finds.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 16 Dec. 1999. 4Mar.2000.
7. Hallowell, Edward, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D. Driven to Distraction:
Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood. New York: Touchstone, 1995.
8. Jardin, Robert. “Does ritalin Really Add Up?” NEA Today. Apr. 1999. 14 Apr. 2000.
9. Kamps, Louisa. “Pop! Goes the Ritalin.” Elle. Mar. 1999: 250-254.
10. Kissinger, Meg. “Is ADHD Being Overdiagnosed?” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 16 Nov. 1998. 4 Mar.2000.
11. Munden, Alison, and Jon Arcelus. The AD/HD Handbook: A Guide for Parents and Professionals on Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. London: Jessica Kingsley, 1999.
12. Sears, William, M.D., and Lynda Thompston, Ph. D. The A.D.D. Book: New Understanding, New Approaches to Parenting Your Child. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1998.
13. Shaughnessy, Michael F., Jeremy Martin, and Hipolito Rivera. “An Interview with Lawrence Greenberg About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity.” Interview. 1999. Clearing House. Sept. 1999: 43-47.
14. Smith, Ian K. “Ritalin for Toddlers.” Time Canada. 6 Mar. 2000. 14 Apr. 2000
15. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, national Institiute of Mental Health, 1999.