Monday, August 29, 2011

ADHD? ADD? Real or Imagined?

Yahoo! today posted an article titled, "Top 10 Myths About ADHD," in which they refute much of what we believe.  They talk about ADHD being something that many kids do not outgrow.  They talk about how 10% of children ages 5-17, as well as 4% of adults, have this disorder.  They also mention that it is NOT caused by bad parenting, that medication isn't the ONLY method of treatment, that is IS a real disorder, and that it is (in the author's opinion) underrated and under-diagnosed.  They purport all these things to be myths about ADHD and cite many of their responses as fact.  Okay, I get it.  I understand it may very well be a real disorder and it might best be treated with medication.  I also understand there is great debate, the world over, on whether our methods are appropriate.  There are many clinicians in other countries that feel we are over medicating our children.  They do not believe the American model is what should be used in diagnosis and treatment.  There's a reason 85% of all the ADHD medications are sold in the US...and it isn't because this same problem is not an issue in other countries......is it?

Every time I read or hear about ADHD, I wonder about its origins.  It wasn't until 1998, in fact, that the NIH released a consensus statement regarding the validity of the ADHD diagnosis and treatment with stimulants.  My question has been, and will always be, why now?  Obviously, the physiology has not changed in the human body, has it?  Have our brains physically changed so that the kids today are different from a previous generation?  I always jokingly say that my father had his own ADHD treatment he used on me.  Quite simple, actually.  It involved a quick smack on the back of my head, followed by a stern, "Pay attention & stop daydreaming!"  Controversial, but effective.  Really, think about it - was I the kid that you wanted to medicate with stimulants?  I think not...and many educators are grateful, believe me.

My concern is not really with the diagnosis or that we're treating a 'phantom' disease.  I believe, to answer some of my own questions, we might be noticing an increased awareness and prevalence because we had not studied it enough, or there was a widespread ignorance of the validity of the disorder.  My concern, truly, is with the fact that, yet again, we are treating symptoms with meds, especially in our youth.  I believe we are resorting to pumping medication into them to compensate for our collective shortcomings.  What do I mean?  Well...glad you asked.  I used to joke, about 25 years ago, that Nintendo was Japanese retaliation for the bomb years ago.  Think about it.  While there are many beneficial uses for video games, we have not been the same since the arrival of the Nintendo.  'Pong' could only keep us occupied for so long, right?  Oh, but Super Mario Brothers?  We were in front of the television for hours.  Seriously, hours.  We stopped going outside to play.  I mean, I hate to revert back to sounding like my parents (no, I did NOT walk five miles to school, uphill both ways), but when we were kids we were outside constantly.  We were still part of the generation that, during the summer months, would leave the house at 7:30 or so, head to a friend's house, get their brothers and the neighbor kids, head to a ball field, and play baseball for hours.  Then we'd go ride our bikes.  Then we'd take time off to eat something, usually while running out the door, until mom called us in for dinner.  At that point, when the sun was up until at least 9:00 or 9:30, we'd be back outside finding ways to both exercise and entertain ourselves.  Video games?  I don't think so.  The other thing we can point to as a possible source of issues we face might very well be the foods we eat.  hey, I took a nutrition class in college, too, and believe me, a Big Mac is always the cure for something eventually.  The problem is that a steady diet will kill you.  Don't believe me?  Watch the movie, "Supersize Me," where the movie maker spent a mere 30 days ingesting nothing but McDonald's foods.....super-sized.  At the end of the 30-day period, the doctor feared he would have a heart attack.  He was polluting his body...and we're not sure this might be a cause?  let's rethink that one, eh? 

One thing I gleaned from reading this that many folks do not believe in the diagnosis.  I read the comments from people after they, too, had read the article.  Most of them believe this is, indeed, a phantom disorder designed to help two groups of people - doctors and the pharmaceutical companies.  While it has definitely helped both monetarily, isn't it time we demand real diagnoses for problems like this?  We need to stop, if possible, the doping of our children.  We need, as I have said so very often, to hold them accountable for their actions rather than simply using the tried and true, "He hasn't had his medicine today."  Really?  Nothing like giving kids permission to misbehave.  I'm NOT saying this is 'made up' - I'm saying we need to find as many alternative treatments as possible before we start sticking pills in them, that's all.  Our kids deserve better and, quite honestly, we're not doing them any favors for their future years either.  Just a thought, but maybe it's worth a try, huh?

Until next time...........

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