According to a 2010 US government survey,1 1 in 10 American children now has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—a 22 percent increase from 2003.ADHD makes it hard for children to pay attention and control impulsive behavior, and an increasing number of older children, including high school students, are now being labeled as having ADHD. Adult ADHD is also becoming more prevalent.As reported by the Las Vegas Guardian Express,2 nearly 11 percent of American kids are labeled with the disorder. More than twice as many boys are diagnosed with ADHD than girls—one in five, compared to one in 11. The featured article speculates about the cause behind these rising numbers.Some experts feel the increase could be due to increased awareness and better diagnosis, but I think you’ll find it interesting that this trend also coincides with increased prevalence of the pervasive weed killer, glyphosate, in the American food supply.There’s also plenty of room for overdiagnosis. In fact, an ADHD diagnosis is often made on the subjective observations of teachers or guardians, based on signs that nearly every child will display at some point. Aggravating factors, such as diet or home environment, are oftentimes overlooked entirely.The featured article actually points out some interesting correlations between ADHD diagnoses and changes to the American educational system that might help explain how, if not why, so many children are misdiagnosed or flat out falsely diagnosed.
What Is ADHD?
But before we get into potential causes for the uptick in prevalence, let’s review how ADHD is qualified in the first place. The disorder involves a cluster of symptoms that includes inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors.Often, children with ADHD struggle in school and have difficulty managing interpersonal relationships. They also tend to suffer from low self-esteem. The similar term attention deficit disorder (ADD) has largely been replaced with ADHD, as it describes two of the most common symptoms of the condition, inattention, and hyperactive-impulsive behavior.Diagnosing ADHD really comes down to a matter of opinion, as there is no physical test, like a brain scan, that can pinpoint the condition. This could change, however. According to a recent study, a newer MRI method called magnetic field correlation imaging that can detect low iron levels in the brains of children with ADHD could potentially help parents and patients make better informed decisions about treatment. As reported by Medicine.net:3“Psychostimulant drugs used to treat ADHD affect levels of the brain chemical dopamine. Because iron is required to process dopamine, using MRI to assess iron levels in the brain may provide a noninvasive, indirect measure of the chemical, explained study author Vitria Adisetiyo… If these findings are confirmed in larger studies, this technique might help improve ADHD diagnosis and treatment…The [magnetic field correlation imaging] scans revealed that the 12 ADHD patients who’d never been treated with psychostimulant drugs such as Ritalin had lower brain iron levels than those who’d received the drugs and those in the control group. The lower iron levels in the ADHD patients who’d never taken stimulant drugs appeared to normalize after they took the medicines.”At present, diagnosis is dependent on subjective evaluation, and, for better or worse, teachers can play a significant role in this evaluation. Most children with ADHD will display a combination of inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior, along with the following symptoms:4
Frequent fidgeting or squirming Difficulty playing quietly Always seems on the go Restlessness Excessive talking and interrupting others Difficulty waiting his or her turn Frequent daydreaming Frequently has problems organizing tasks or activities Difficulty following through on instructions and apparently not listeningMany of these “symptoms” could describe virtually any child, or most children, on any given day. Hence, those who display these symptoms at school but not at home or with friends are not considered to have ADHD. Ditto for children who display symptoms at home but not at school.
Only children who struggle with inattention and hyperactive or impulsive behaviors around the clock are deemed to have ADHD—or at least they should be. According to a 2010 study,5 an estimated 20 percent of children are misdiagnosed with ADHD.According to some, the disorder may not even be a “real” disorder at all. Psychiatrist Leon Eisenberg, hailed as the “scientific father of ADHD,” actually went on record saying that ADHD is “a prime example of a fictitious disease.”He made this stunning confession in a 2012 interview with the German paperDer Spiegel, just seven months prior to his death6 at the age of 87.
How the American School System May Be Promoting ADHD Diagnoses
At least part of the rise in prevalence could be attributed to inappropriate diagnosis. As reported in the featured article, there’s an interesting correlation between the rise in ADHD diagnoses and the implementation of the US Elementary and Secondary Education Act known as “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). The program was implemented nationwide in 2002.Rest of article – link