Academic journal article Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry

The ADHD Epidemic in America

Academic journal article Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry

The ADHD Epidemic in America

Article excerpt

Over the last decade, ADHD diagnoses have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Behaviors that were once considered normal range are now currently defined as pathological by those with a vested interest in promoting the widespread use of psychotropic drugs in child and adolescent populations. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed "mental illness" in children in the United States today, and approximately 99% of children diagnosed as ADHD are prescribed daily doses of methylphenidate in order to control undesirable behaviors. This article openly challenges the scientific validity and reliability of current ADHD assessment tools and questions the ethics involved in prescribing dangerous and addictive drugs to children. In addition, particular attention will be given to familial, political, economical, biological, ethological, historical, and evolutionary correlates as they relate to the myth of ADHD in America. The goal of this article is to offer a theoretically sound alternative to the current medical model and to challenge the existing ADHD paradigm that pathologizes historically documented, normal-range child behavioral patterns.

Keywords: ADHD; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; ADD; diagnosing ADHD

Over the last 10-15 years, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses have reached epidemic proportions in the United States (Baughman, 2006; Breggin, 2002). In 1950s America, ADHD did not exist. In 1970, 2,000 American children (mostly boys) were diagnosed as "hyperactive," and the standard method of treatment was behavior modification (Levine, 2004). By 2006, approximately 8-10 million American children (again, the majority are boys) had been diagnosed with ADHD, and the vast majority of these children have been treated with daily doses of methylphenidate (Bredding, 2002; Breggin, 2002; Levine, 2004). What was once an unheard of "psychiatric disorder" is now commonplace in America. Millions of American children are diagnosed with a mythical disease, and the vast majority of these children are prescribed dangerous and addictive drugs in order to control normal-range, historically documented child behaviors.

It is a fact that American children are disproportionately diagnosed with ADHD as data indicates that 80%-90% of all methylphenidate produced worldwide is prescribed for American children in order to control ADHD-type behaviors (Leo, 2000). Scientists investigating the recently constructed ADHD phenomenon must begin to question why ADHD is alarmingly prevalent in 21st-century America. Why has this disease not been recorded across time? Across cultures? Across mammalian species? Proponents of the disease model of ADHD (a pseudohypothesis at best) are adamant in their assertion that ADHD is the result of a chemical imbalance within the brain in spite of the fact that there is no scientific evidence to substantiate this hypothesis. If indeed ADHD is a neurological in nature, perhaps those in the scientific community should begin to ask what biological mechanism could possibly account for the startling alteration of the neurological system of the American boy in the course of 10-15 years (Levine, 2004).


Although The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has reported that methylphenidate can reduce classroom disturbance and increase compliance and sustained attention, seldom are the ill effects of methylphenidate discussed publicly (Breggin, 1995). Methylphenidate is pharmacologically classified as an amphetamine and therefore causes the identical type of effects, side effects, and risks that are associated with amphetamine use (Breggin, 1995). The American Psychiatric Association has established that methylphenidate is neuropharmacologically similar to cocaine and amphetamines and that abuse patterns are strikingly similar for these types of drugs (Breggin, 1995). The U. …

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