An epidemic of unbelievable proportions

Over 10% of children age 5-12 have been diagnosed with ADHD

Cameron Adamczyk

Over 10% of children age 5-12 have been diagnosed with ADHD

It’s undeniable. Politically correct culture dominates modern American Society. It seems these days that nearly everyone has something that makes them “different” from everybody else. Suggesting that some of these people aren’t actually at a disadvantage from the general population is a surefire way to ruffle a few feathers at the very least. Perhaps the most prominent of these “differences” is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

In the past 20 years, ADHD has become so common that when somebody reveals that they are diagnosed with it, it barely elicits a response from most people.

According to Psychiatric Times. from 1980 to 2007 the prevalence of ADHD diagnoses saw an 8-fold increase within the United States  Back in the 1970’s, doctors diagnosed less than 1% of American schoolchildren with ADHD as compared to the 11% of United States youth with an ADHD diagnosis in 2011 (according to Center for Disease Control).

There are multiple factors contributing to this drastic rise in children with attention issues, and it’s not that there has been an outbreak of poor genetics throughout the country.

For one thing, the testing frequency for ADHD along with the awareness of the disorder in general have risen dramatically. Awareness is positive, but there are issues with the diagnosis process. The process is subjective with no physical indisputable evidence to base a diagnosis on because it is a mental disorder.

Peter R. Breggin, a respected psychiatrist in Ithaca, N.Y. believes that ADHD is almost always either Teacher Attention Disorder (TAD) or Parent Attention Disorder (PAD). Basically, most of these children need the adults in their lives to give them improved attention, whether that be through playing games, reading with them, or just talking about their day.

The diagnosis for ADHD, from the 2000 edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” is simply a list of behaviors that require attention in a classroom: hyperactivity (“fidgets,” “leaves seat,” “talks excessively”); impulsivity (“blurts out answers,” “interrupts”); and inattention (“careless mistakes,” “easily distractible,” “forgetful”). Other ways exist to diagnose ADHD, besides a simple list, but that just further exposes the issue that there is no official way or set of guidelines to diagnose the disorder.

As long as a parent reports impulsivity, distraction,  hyperactivity, etc. to a psychiatrist, they can have their child diagnosed with ADHD. The actual issue may be another disorder due to a lack of attention but, since the issue has already been addressed and supposedly solved, the real issue goes untreated. Instead of heavy medication or catered learning techniques, children might just need someone to ask them about their day.

The testing for ADHD is subjective because it varies depending on who administers the questionnaire and where the test is given. A child could be diagnosed with the disorder by one psychiatrist but be told that he’s just being a typical kid by another.

Maybe instead of trying to fix every little imperfection in today’s children, our PC culture should take a step back and reserve the psychiatric tests and powerful medications for the few that truly have severe learning disabilities.

Over-diagnosis of ADHD is a major problem among today’s youth but a few false labels never really hurt anyone. The real problem is that many of the children diagnosed with ADHD are put on powerful medications. So, if some of them don’t actually have the disorder, those children might as well just be popping pills from their parents medicine cabinet.

Some people say that children who are diagnosed with ADHD and who start a regimen of Adderall or Ritalin, will see improvement only if they have the disorder.

The reality of this though, is that when children without ADHD take Adderal they see the same results as the children who are diagnosed with ADHD. Adderal increases the ability of a person to focus, pay attention and control behavior. It has a serious effect regardless of the subject taking the pill. As a high schooler, I’ve seen plenty of my classmates, who don’t have ADHD, experiment with Adderal or other ADHD medication. They weren’t just taking that to feel normal, if you catch my drift.

Half of children diagnosed with ADHD by preschool are on medication for the disorder in America. If their is any error in the diagnosis process, then a portion of America’s preschoolers are on strong medications that are altering their young minds.

Unfortunately, the errors are evident. In a 2010 study conducted by the Journal of Health Economics, 10% of kindergarteners born in August, the youngest children in the class, were diagnosed with ADHD as compared to 4.5% of those born in September, the oldest kids in the class.

There’s no way to explain the disparity in diagnosis rate between children who are born in different months unless it’s to be believed that certain months of the year are more inclined to birth children with a mental disorder. I have a tough time believing that there is an anomaly occurring whereby children born in August are twice as likely to have ADHD as those born in September.

It seems as if people have lost their grasp on what children are supposed to behave like. Schools have forgotten to account for the fact that, in a kindergarten class of 5 and 6 year olds, some of those children have had up to 15% more time to be alive and develop their brain into an improved learning state.

Parents of a hyper and unpredictable child will worry about their son/daughter not being as mature as the other students in their class. When they report these “troublesome” behaviors to a doctor or a psychiatrist they could be told that their son or daughter has ADHD and that’s exactly what some parents are hoping to hear.

America has become addicted to having a quick fix for problems, with recent improvements in technology and medicine. So what’s a quicker fix for hyper behavior than psychiatric medication? Nothing.

A portion of society, is being misdiagnosed and incorrectly medicated for ADHD, but there are also children living in the USA who have ADHD but aren’t receiving the proper care.

The disconnect occurs with people like myself, who have become disenchanted with a large portion of their peers “having” the disorder. They can’t sift through all the diagnoses to figure out which ones are legitimate so some people now disregard ADHD almost entirely. I know that a small group of my peers are actually struggling with a serious learning disorder, but I’m hesitant to show support because I don’t want to support unjustified medication.

It’s a difficult situation for everyone. Parents who have children who are medicated for ADHD may or may not have done the right thing by putting them on medication. Teachers who have students in their class with ADHD may or may not be doing the right thing by being more lenient towards ADHD students. Psychiatrist have to decide for themselves where they  should they draw the line between typical childish behavior and a serious mental disorder.

All society can do is improve the testing for ADHD, the amount of time spent diagnosing ADHD, and standardize the requirements to be diagnosed with ADHD. Instead of jumping to quick conclusions and strong medications, let’s take our time and ensure that the diagnosis is correct. It won’t result in every child being properly diagnosed, but if one more child can be treated properly then it’s all worth it.

It’s time for the country to buckle down and finally give ADHD the scrutiny and the attention it deserves.


The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors and contributors on this student-run news site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of Lambert High School or Forsyth County Schools.