“After more than 50 years leading the fight to legitimize attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” Dr. Keith Conners calls the rising rates of diagnosis “a national disaster of dangerous proportions,” reports the New York Times in The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder.
“The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous,” Dr. Conners, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University, said in a subsequent interview. “This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”
Fifteen percent of high school-aged Americans now are diagnosed with ADHD, reports the Times. Classic ADHD, “historically estimated to affect 5 percent of children, is a legitimate disability that impedes success at school, work and personal life.” Drugs can help, though they have side effects.
But . . . drug company marketing has stretched the image of classic A.D.H.D. to include relatively normal behavior like carelessness and impatience, and has often overstated the pills’ benefits. Advertising on television and in popular magazines like People and Good Housekeeping has cast common childhood forgetfulness and poor grades as grounds for medication that, among other benefits, can result in “schoolwork that matches his intelligence” and ease family tension.
Now, adult diagnoses are soaring, reports the Times. “In this six-question test, anyone but the highly organized” could be deemed “ADHD possible.”