Sunday, June 25, 2006

The ADHD Epidemic

*WARNING: This is going to be a long post so anyone who may not have the time or the attention span then bookmark it and come back later…it looks as though I have to climb atop the old soapbox again.

I was talking to my parents the other day and they told me that my cousin was going to be tested for ADHD (Attention Defecate Hyperactivity Disorder). I was a little shocked and asked why. I got the stock reply that I would say most parents give, “Grades, attention, attitude, etc.”. I must admit I am a bit emotionally invested here, not to mention that I am not licensed in any medical discipline (unless you count MD of Awesomeness, which most people don’t) so take everything from here on with a grain of salt.

You see years ago when I was a pre teen my parents decided that I had to go see a series of shrinks to see if I could be qualified as what was then called ADD for all the same reasons listed above. Though I was declared to have ADD and was put on Ritalin I have always felt that it was done in error. That’s right, I felt the psychologists had misdiagnosed me. Now, I don’t want to come off as a crazy-ass Scientologist here, but I do believe that the human condition is such that accurately diagnosing a person with any disorder could, and in most cases should, take a long time to do. People are just too fucking complex to qualify and quantify into such general behavioral groups like that. I just feel that to diagnose a kid so quickly like that, especially a child whose self-image will be greatly affected by what this professional may say about them not to mention that in this child’s mind their parents have decided there is something deficient enough about them to warrant taking them to this professional, you should get to know them for more than a couple of hour long sessions.

In my case I was humiliated and destroyed by the verdict. I felt that I was different from everyone else around me because of my medication and supposed problem. That I didn’t belong with the normal kids because I was lacking. My self-image was shattered and as a result I had to build a new one. I don’t begrudge my parents for this. I know they were doing it out of concern and love. I mean any parent who doesn’t want to make their child’s life better or even easier is just sadistic. They just wanted me to be successful and for school to be easier, I got that. Yet when I was talking to them the other day about this, though I have on numerous occasions tried to dispel their belief that I was ever truly any kind of candidate for ADD, they were relentless. They still believe that I have a learning disability and were trying to be supportive. I gotta tell ya its like having to prove you’re NOT a witch to a bunch of pissed-off torch bearing puritans. Once the dye is cast it never comes out baby, never.

So, let me explain to you what the symptoms of ADHD in fact are…

Children who have ADHD often:

  • Are easily distracted by sights and sounds in their environment.
  • Are unable to concentrate for long periods of time on low stimulation tasks (homework vs. video games).
  • Are restless and impulsive.
  • Have a tendency to daydream.
  • Are slow to complete tasks.

Now it may just be me, but does that not sound like the typical child to anyone else? Is there any child who would rather be doing his or her math homework than out playing with the other kids down the street? Is there any kid with enough life experience or maturity to not seem impulsive? I mean seriously who’s kid is not ruled by their impulses? What I am trying to say here is that, to me and most of the other people I’ve talked to, ADHD is way too broadly defined to have any sort of real merit as a true psychiatric disorder. At least with most other disorders there are much narrower criteria that must be met. It seems that the term ADHD should be re-named “The normal kid complex”.

It is also striking how most of these symptoms are remarkably similar to the signs that anyone would display if they were bored. Now, I’m not saying that all the kids who are diagnosed with this are really a bunch of bright kids who just slipped through the cracks. Certainly there are children and adults who would benefit greatly from the medications provided. However, how many people are misdiagnosed a year?

When the illness was first discovered and the drug Ritalin was first marketed it seemed like most kids were either on Ritalin or had been on it for a while. Huge numbers of children in America were diagnosed as having ADD. Now, years later, there almost seems to be a bit of a backlash as those children have grown up. After doing a bit of research on the net I was surprised to see how many sites weren’t just about the symptoms of ADHD and the helpfulness of the current drugs but almost just as many articles or pages about why you shouldn’t be on these drugs or pages that seemed bent on the negative sides of the psychiatric community (as it pertained to the diagnoses of children with ADHD) as well as the drugs themselves. I felt that I had some vindication at this point. Apparently I wasn’t the only one.

In fact I stumbled across a lot of sites all about the problem of misdiagnosis of ADHD. Some even included a list of alternative reasons that a child might display the symptoms of ADHD. Believe me there were way too many to list here so you’ll have to check out the links at the bottom. Again I’m not saying that ADHD doesn’t exist; what I am saying is that it seems to be this “catch-all” diagnosis that some poorly qualified or inexperienced or even charlatans in the psychiatric community may use to prescribe a medication to children who may have some other condition or in fact nothing wrong with them at all.

Again, I am not saying that some people don't qualify or wouldn't benefit from medication for ADHD. However I am pleading with parents out there to not take this decision lightly. Think about what this could do to your child or even your relationship with your child. Also, think about what other causes this could be stemming from. It is way to easy to just say that this problem is genetic and therefore it couldn't be anything else; "Drug my child please." This should be a last resort and trust me it will have lasting consequences for both you and your child.

Check out these links for more info…

- ADHD Drug Side Effects
- Ritalin Side effects
- Misdiagnosis of ADHD
- The Overdiagnosis of ADHD (I highly recomend this one)

P.S. Yeah, yeah, sorry I haven't posted in a while but what can I say? I guess being a free-lance archaeologist for hire, not to mention a kick-ass husband keeps me pretty buisy. What's that? "But Mark, we need more opinions of a truely half-assed nature...whimper, whimper." Oh, ok. I'll whip up another batch of intelectual trav-sham-mockery as soon as I can. And maybe it won't take me a month like last time.