It’s common knowledge that the U.S. has an unusual dependency on prescription medication, highlighted by the current epidemic of opioid overdoses in adults. Children, too, have experienced an astronomical rise in a particular kind of medication—that used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The pharmaceutical industry found a gold mine in developing drugs to modify behavior in children. According to the documentary, The Drugging of Our Children, between 1995 and 2000, the number of psychotropic drugs prescribed to kids doubled. Each morning, more than 6 million children are given prescription medication before going to school, such as Ritalin or other amphetamines.
The diagnosis for ADHD is notoriously subjective, and has in many cases become a tool for teachers and school authorities to drug a child into “proper” behavior.
The most powerful symptom of ADHD in the psychiatric handbook, ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders, is when a child “often fidgets with hands and feet or squirms in seat.”
Other purported symptoms include blurting out answers before questions are completed (“impulsivity”) and failing to give close attention to details or giving careless mistakes in school work or other activities (“inattention”).
If a teacher notices too many instances of such odd behavior as fidgeting, not waiting their turn, stepping out of line or speaking out of turn, the teacher can initiate a psychiatric evaluation.
At this point one may be thinking, isn’t it normal for kids to do stuff like that?
In a society that values homogeneity, ADHD diagnoses are continuing to rise. However, it turns out that many of these kids may not have ADHD at all, and may instead be drugged because of their relative age.
In a new study, researchers collected data on 378,881 children between the ages of 4 and 17, and found that the youngest kids in a grade level were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD or receive ADHD medication than the older kids.
According to the research:
“When looking at the database as a whole, children born in August were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and/or receive ADHD medication than those born in September. When broken down and analyzed according to age, only preschool or elementary school-aged children born in August had an increased risk of being diagnosed with ADHD and receiving ADHD medication. However, adolescents born in August did not have an increased risk of ADHD diagnosis. This may imply that increasing age and maturity lessens the impact of birth month on ADHD diagnoses.”
A five-year, 1-month old kid has very different temperamental levels than a five-year, 11-month old kid. Teachers who initiate psychiatric evaluations may be comparing the younger to the older and concluding that ADHD is the culprit.
The results are shocking in that they call into question millions of potentially unnecessary cases of medicating young children with psychotropic drugs. These drugs, besides altering brain chemistry, can cause weight loss, liver problems, or even suicidal thoughts.
“Relative age, as an indicator of neurocognitive maturity, is crucial in the risk of being diagnosed with ADHD and receiving ADHD medication among children and adolescents. Our findings emphasize the importance of considering the age of a child within a grade when diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medication for treating ADHD. – The Journal of Pediatrics“
ADHD is a condition, which is thought to be partly hereditary and partly due to factors such as the low birth weight or the mother smoking or drinking during pregnancy. However, the diagnosis of ADHD has become highly questionable.
As David Cohen, MD, said, “The problem with being a child today in America, compared to 20 or 30 years ago, is that if you are different, if you are agitated, if you are extremely active, you will fall under the gaze of the “helping professions.”
Nowadays, unhappiness is made into a disease. The pharmaceutical industry has managed to make paying patients out of kids. They market their drugs as solutions for parents, providing an easy way to manage the kids through sedation. In the classroom, ADHD medication serves the purpose of refining behavior by creating excuses to medicate under psychiatric guidelines.
There are dozens of problems that can look like ADHD, but far too often a rush to diagnose ADHD prevents the exclusion of other causes. For instance, the same symptoms of ADHD are also found when children are exposed to PCBs, polyvinyl chlorides and lead. In one case, a five-year-old girl was diagnosed with ADHD, but it was later discovered that allergies were the actual culprit. When the allergies were treated, the kid calmed down.
This latest study, finding that nothing more than relative age may be the single biggest factor leading to ADHD diagnoses, will hopefully trigger a much harder look at this notoriously subjective field. We need to ask how often schools are jumping to conclusions in the interest of making compliant children.