Last week, Dr. Oz devoted his TV program to the use and abuse of Adderall, the addictive amphetamine that is prescribed for attention deficit disorders (ADD/ADHD) in children and young adults. The diagnosis has become so epidemic in our culture that one in seven children is now labeled developmentally disabled.

ADD/ADHD is not well defined; a schoolchild unable to stay focused, who doesn’t pay attention, can’t follow instructions, fidgets or daydreams, will find a doctor will prescribe this highly addictive medication. And it’s not just kids, young adults aged 20-29 are the fastest growing segment of people taking ADHD medications (14,000,000 prescriptions a year).

Dr. Oz spoke to the father of Richard Fee,  a bright 21 year old athlete, college class president and aspiring medical student. Richard wa prescribed Adderall to help him get more focused in his work and became addicted. His behavior changed, he became paranoid, violent and delusional. Richard was hospitalized, his father pleaded with the psychiatrist to stop prescribing the drug, said “you keep giving Adderall to my son, you’re going to kill him”. The psychiatrist told the father that he knew his son better than he did and gave him a 90-day prescription for it on his discharge from the hospital. Two weeks after he took the last one Richard Fee committed suicide.

As a culture we are pathologizing the ordinary ups and downs of the human experience and we are over prescribing drugs. We must find better ways of setting limits for our children other than chemically straitjacketing them; like the revolutionary idea of being willing to set limits on your kids and enforcing them. I’ve predicted (see Schlagbyte Archives, search ADHD) that we’d reduce 90% of problematic behaviors if we restored the dinner meal to a family ritual and talked to each other around the table about our day (with all electronics turned off).

To the Fee family my condolences are insufficient to express my sorrow. I cannot imagine the horror of of finding my child hanging in his bedroom closet. My heart aches for you, and as a psychiatrist I am ashamed of my colleagues behavior and hope you will continue to speak out on Richards behalf.