April 2, 2013 § 17 Comments
Yesterday I caught wind of a recent NY Times article about the recent surge in diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in America’s school age children. According to the article, there as been a 53% rise in cases of ADHD in the 4 – 17-year-old age group over just the past decade.
Now, it just so happens that for another project, I’d recently done a little research into the market for ADHD drugs, most of which are prescribed to children. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that psychotropic behavioral modification drugs are a consistent profit-maker for the pharmaceutical industry, adding up to $7.42 billion in 2010, an 83% increase in just four years. And in 2011 alone, Novartis reported a 19% increase in sales of Ritalin. It’s probably worth noting that these drug carry the potential for the following side effects: Difficulty breathing, double vision, depression, paranoid delusions, and severe aggression. Because they alter the neural pathways in the brain, they are also habit-forming.
I am certain that if my children were “tested,” at least one of them would receive a diagnosis of ADHD (I’m also pretty certain that if I were tested, I’d be diagnosed as such), and there is no question that maintaining focus and managing a seemingly bottomless well of exuberance are two of our biggest challenges around here. But here’s the thing: Because of how we’ve structured our lives, we can meet these challenges, albeit not always with the utmost grace. Furthermore, because we are able to meet these challenges, we are able to view these qualities as being not necessarily undesirable, but actually beneficial. I love my children’s boisterous exuberance and their unrelenting passion, even as it flits from one project to another and I view it as one the greatest privileges in my life that I am able to accommodate it and be present to watch it unfold on a hour-by-hour, day-by-day basis. Frankly, it saddens me to consider how few parents are able to have this opportunity in 21st century America.
Furthermore, what good can possibly come of labeling a child’s natural behavior as a “disorder” that must be corrected? Damn straight our boys are fountains of often-frantic energy and near-constant excitement. I can see how these qualities might not work so well to an institutionalized learning environment, and I am again grateful that we do not have to demand that anyone in our family modify their behavior via the ingestion of habit-forming pharmaceutical drugs, just so they can conform to the behavioral expectations set by the contemporary educational and medical systems. The truth is, I do not want these systems to tell me who my children are. I want my children to tell me who my children are.
To finish, I have two questions: Is the increase in sales of ADHD drugs the result of an increase in diagnoses? Or is it possible that it’s actually the other way around?
And: What message does it send to our children (nearly 7 million of them, according to the article) first that their behavior must be modified, and second that the best way to modify it is to alter their brain chemistry with drugs?
I don’t know about you, but I’m thinkin’ that’s a pretty heavy burden for them to shoulder.