Is ADHD Real? A Damaging Debate
A recent New York Times article has defined an almost national debate that should concern doctors, ADHD patients, and their families alike. Writer Alan Schwartz penned the article titled “Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions,” which examined the staggering number of ADHD diagnoses, the quick ability to obtain prescriptions for those medications, and the chance so many see to fake this condition and misuse the medication.
At the heart of the piece was the story of Richard, a college student who had faked the disorder to get a prescription for Adderall, a medication that may have led him to hang himself. Schwartz’s suggestion is that the over-diagnosis of this disorder is a massive problem throughout the U.S.
While Schwartz isn’t necessarily wrong about the over-diagnosis issue, the simple reality is that ADHD is a very real disorder, and it’s not just kids bouncing off the walls. There are people with the disorder who have to struggle focusing on simple activities, and the idea that it’s over-diagnosed and medication for it is over-prescribed is only going to make things tougher for those that fall in the middle of the spectrum.
In rebuttal to the Schwartz article, Dr. David Rettew said that because attention span and activity level are part of the diagnosis, given the fact that they’re so complex to define, it’s sometimes a no man’s land when it comes to diagnosis. That makes ADHD no less real. In fact, it’s a bit tough to write off all of the data that surrounds the condition. While no one wants to see people taking medications they don’t need, Rettew argued, no one wants to see kids suffering needlessly either.
The debate isn’t over yet. Much more is left to be said, but knowing both sides of the equation is important for everyone involved.