Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Overselling the Science of ADHD

Jonathan Leo, Ph.D.

October 22, 2013

The New York Times has a new essay on ADHD titled, "The Not-So-Hidden Cause Behind the ADHD Epidemic" which explores the various reasons for the increased diagnosis of ADHD. The author, Maggie Koerth-Baker, starts off with the usual alarming epidemiological data, and then lays much of the blame for this on the medical and education professions. For an article that acknowledges that many people have been unnecessarily treated and that a large number of kids are unlikely to have any biological differences warranting a medication, it is interesting that Koerth-Baker acknowledges that she herself has a diagnosis of ADHD and has taken medication. This would seem to be the pot calling the kettle black, but her take on this is that, in contrast to the millions who have been given a false diagnosis, she has been correctly diagnosed by her doctor.

The author makes some good points about the upside of the diagnosis such as students getting increased tutoring and time allowances on tests, a recognition of different learning styles. However, it is a bit ironic that in an article looking to find the cause of the increased rate of the ADHD diagnosis she has inadvertently provided an article which exemplifies the problem. When it comes to discussing the biology of ADHD she has left her readers with false notions about the science of ADHD. In her brief discussion of brain imaging, chemical imbalances, and genetics she has so over-simplified these topics that they are just not representative of what scientists know. In short, when it comes to the science of ADHD the author has made statements that would probably trigger warning letters by the FDA if they appeared in advertisements, yet they appear in the New York Times                                    .>Completer report<

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