How Accurate Is Media Coverage of Attention Deficit Disorder?
Vatz, Richard E., Weinberg, Lee S., USA TODAY
There has been a recent boomlet in the print and electronic media in stories raising serious questions about the diagnosis and treatment of attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many of these reports make the same points: ADD has become a "fad disorder," difficult to diagnose and more difficult to disconfirm; whether one is diagnosed often depends on where one lives; and the treatment, methylphenidate (Ritalin), is being legally overprescribed in some cases and illegally abused in others.
All of these charges, except the illegal abuse, had been made in academic publications in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, a substantial collection of academic material critical of ADD diagnosis and prescribing Ritalin have been available to writers for years.
The Myth of the Hyperactive Child (1975), by Peter Schrag and Diane Divoky; The Learning Mystique (1988), by Gerald Coles; and writings by psychiatrist Thomas Szasz and others have made these points. For example, Coles'book pointed out that "the description of a child with an attention deficit disorder ... is ... vague and preposterous.... Even those who believe there is such a condition ... agree that it `is not well defined.'"
An Oct. 21. 1988, article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a tremendous rise in the use of Ritalin in certain regions. Looking at a sample in Baltimore County, Md., the piece noted that, since 1971, there had been "a consistent doubling of the rate of medication [methylphenidate or Ritalin] for hyperactivity/inattentive students every four to seven years." This was followed by a drop in use due to bad publicity about lawsuits, but the increase resumed. Recently, there has been an acknowledged quadrupling of the prescribing of Ritalin. In 1989, an article in The Atlantic Monthly warned of the danger of physicians' ignoring commonsense precautions readily available in professional journals regarding the prescribing of Ritalin.
Thus, by the 1980s, skeptical rumblings about ADD were being heard intermittently within …
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Publication information: Article title: How Accurate Is Media Coverage of Attention Deficit Disorder?. Contributors: Vatz, Richard E. - Author, Weinberg, Lee S. - Author. Magazine title: USA TODAY. Volume: 125. Issue: 2626 Publication date: July 1997. Page number: 76+. © 2009 Society for the Advancement of Education. COPYRIGHT 1997 Gale Group.
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