Soaring numbers of American children are being prescribed drugs for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and there aren’t enough child psychiatrists to treat these kids. There are an estimated 4 million children being medicated with potent drugs even though we know (Ambulatory Pediatrics, March-April, 2006),that these medications are being used for large numbers of children for whom they don’t work.
ADD and ADHD were not even diseases in the official psychiatric diagnostic manual (DSM IV) 30 years ago. Either lots of doctors missed this “disease” or it’s a creation of our culture which tries to explain every uncomfortable manifestation of human behavior, as representing a disease. From fidgeting to bullying, you may be suffering from a disease caused by a genetic, traumatic, infectious, or autoimmune problem, but one that cannot be defined by any laboratory test or genetic marker. As soon as you declare some behaviors a disease, you take what is an ordinary manifestation of our humanity and create an epidemic. How can there be, in just one generation, 4 million kids suffering from a disease that requires them to take dangerous drugs with serious side-effects. By labeling these behaviors as illnesses, it also implies that we know how to treat them, which legitimizes prescribing drugs.
It’s not just “Big Pharma” that’s pushing this model of treatment. Psychiatrists are deeply involved in creating this epidemic. They rate the diagnostic manual that defines behavioral disease. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), is the basis for disease diagnosis, insurance payments and psychiatric treatments including drugs. The DSM is written by 107 medical experts who are members of 18 DSM preparation panels. In a study in the last months journal, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (April, 2006), researchers discovered that over the last 20 years, 56% of those DSM experts had one or more financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry from whom they received research funds, consultancies, patents, and other gifts or grants.
The ADD/ADHD epidemic is the result of creating a disease that is not well-defined and therefore indiscriminate in its application. We need to get away from a culture that defines unacceptable behaviors as psychiatric diseases, and then promotes drug taking and chemical straitjacketing to set limits.
The shortage of child psychiatrists is not the crisis, the crisis is the:
. legitimization, easy access and demand for drugs in our culture
. absence of extended families and supportive communities that help set limits and enforce them
. shortage of teachers to whom we pay pittance salaries