Your ADHD Stories

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

pills spilling out of bottles pills spilling out of bottles (nvinacco/flickr)

New CDC data analyzed by the Times show a 53% increase in ADHD diagnosis over the last decade. Now 11% of US children have been diagnosed. Alan Schwarz, health reporter for the New York Times discusses and takes calls.


Alan Schwarz

Comments [58]

ADHD dad from NYC

Robin from Harlem: I agree totally with your point and the NY Times reporter missed it completely. "I don't think there is a stigma if so many kids are being diagnosed and medicated.." He totally missed the forest for the subtle trees of your point - that parents of kids who genuinely DO have the diagnosis are being frightened by the backlash that he was reporting on. oh well, at least a few of us out there got your point...

Apr. 03 2013 06:01 PM
Jill from Rye, NY

Our children are in crisis: witness the incredible statistics for ADHD, food allergies, asthma and autism. I implore the FDA, the President, congress to take a look at our food supply and ask how we got here and how we stop it. No GMOs, no artificial colors, no Monsanto, no antibiotics in our meat, no heavy metals in our vaccines. We have a generation of compromised children and we are failing them if we don't act.

Apr. 03 2013 02:39 PM

Reading ADHD statistics and listening to stories on The Brian Lehrer Show makes me feel bad for all the people on the extreme side of the disorder, who are caught in the crossfire of the perceived over diagnosis.

They're the unfortunate victims of society's tendency to overreach in every direction.

Apr. 03 2013 10:10 AM
M from Illinois

A friend of mine had an 10 months old who started walking. Her pediatrician told her that the child is most likely to develop ADHD when she grows up. This is the problem, we are so obsessed with the norm that we find pathologies with anything that isn't the norm.

Apr. 03 2013 09:36 AM
Susan from Manhattan

To Dan from Greenpoint -- you said in your comment "My entire life I've had trouble reading an entire book, or focusing on one thing/task for very long." Have you ever been checked for dyslexia or other learning disabilities?

While 20% of high school boys being treated for ADHD in HS seems high, that IS the percentage of dyslexic boys in HS, and girls in HS, and younger children and adults in general throughout the world. Dyslexia is way-under-recognized, and learning disabilities in general are often mistaken ADD/ADHD because the child or student acts out in frustration at not being able to engage in the printed matter that makes up so much of school life.


Susan Crawford, Director
The Right to Read Project
Author of "Help! My Child Isn't Reading Yet -- What Should I Do?"

Apr. 02 2013 03:38 PM

Having an ADHD child requires a great deal of patience and effort. The parents, siblings, friends, parents of friends, teachers, etc. all must go the extra mile when dealing with a diagnosed child. I am the mother of a diagnosed hyperactive son. We have agreed, myself, his father and stepmother, not to go the medication route. We are fortunate that his school, all through his 6 years so far, have been onboard with our decision. We have been so fortunate to have fantastic educators, who appreciate our son's "uniqueness" (their word). I respect the fact that some parents don't feel they have that option. There definitely are instances when medication is essential for a productive life, but I do not believe all that are diagnosed are in need of medication. I'm also not so sure our environment, lifestyle, and agriculture have nothing to do with this epidemic. Children take time and children with "certain characteristics" take even more time. We have cultivated a society that believes a pill solves everything without taking time to consider the options or even the long term effects.

Apr. 02 2013 02:49 PM

Alan Schwarz: [These kids have a] “lifetime chronic neurological disorder, brain disorder… a neurological disorder between their ears.”

Sound familiar? Once a pedophile always a pedophile. Once an addict always an addict. Once a criminal, always a criminal. (Once a gun nut, always a gun nut: wait, that one’s true!) You are your DNA. You are your environment. When did reporters stop reporting and start speaking/advocating as experts in the field they are supposed to cover? Interesting to hear a news reporter, aka now self-appointed “mental health analysis” expert, dispense with pushback regarding over-diagnosis from what is likely his own NYT readership (public radio call-ins).

That being said, I have ADHD. My children have it. My ex-wife likely has it and is in denial. But in the 21st century, NO one should look for treatment or understanding based solely on current “diagnosis patterns”, (i.e., breaking news to promote readership). Look at the abysmal historical record of our criminal justice system, our public safety net, our addiction treatment centers, and our religious institutions when it comes to addressing mental health and anti-social behavior. With that public record, Big Pharma and shrinks turn to us and say “trust me”. What makes psychiatry any less suspicious? Alan Schwarz touched on this as the interview came to a close.

We need the NY Times, their health reporters AND PUBLIC RADIO to bring us the latest research and the actual experts – we need journalism to bring us up to date on factual information. Just the facts, Ma’am.

Apr. 02 2013 01:58 PM

Restore Sanity: my apologies, you are correct. I saw "pushing on doctors" and had just read other comments eager to blame psychiatrists as a whole.

Robin: thank you for your excellent contribution as well as a call for balanced coverage. I remember my undiagnosed condition as a child. Although I was likely surrounded by others with the same, I always felt alone because I was incapable of focusing on study. Thankfully I managed, but started to get into trouble at work during my 20s. While kids may survive undiagnosed, judicious meds may give them the revelation of feeling "normal" early on, and better enable them to create sustainable foundations for later.

Apr. 02 2013 01:16 PM
Owen from Berkeley, CA

Good thing he's in print media! But his thorniness aside, your guest's main points are right. 1 in 5? That's a Big Pharma scam.

Apr. 02 2013 01:06 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights


Apr. 02 2013 12:02 PM
JB from NJ, Inc.

To Robin -
Interesting to bring up diabetes. This is also a disease on the rise due to the sugar-ridden, Standard American Diet (SAD), lack of exercise / overall sedentary lifestyle, and the meteoric rise in obesity. There is no group of children more stigmatized than those who are obese and on the fast track to becoming diabetic.

Apr. 02 2013 11:56 AM
RC from NY

@Robin - The negative reaction is not towards those with the disease; its the over diagnosis of the disease. I didn't like the tone of Brian's guest either, but I agree with him that its nonsense that 20% of the entire male populace has ADHD. Does ADHD exist? Absolutely! Does every child that exhibit symptoms of that disorder have ADHD? Absolutely not.

The reasons why children, particularly males, exhibit ADHD symptoms have to do with environment. The expectation of children in our current society are much different than decades prior. And these new expectations maybe the reason why our kids are "restless". The current generation isn't physical active and socially interactive as prior generations. The nutritional consumption of children has vastly declined. And parental involvement with children has greatly changed. These maybe the reasons for seemingly hyperactive children.

Apr. 02 2013 11:48 AM
Restore Sanity from Westchester

@ JM: I appreciate but am a little puzzled by your response to my post. I didn't say anything about psychiatrists, and did not mean to imply that doctors were taking bribes or otherwise influenced by financial offers. The point I was trying to make was to agree with the guest that it is the individual doctor (be he/she a pediatrician, general practitioner, psychiatrist, or other)who writes the prescription, and it is the doctor to whom the parents look for professional judgment to sort through the influence of advertising and sales rep claims. Blaming faceless big companies is easy and feels good, but it does nothing to address the issue - parents in consultation with doctors make the final decision.

Apr. 02 2013 11:47 AM
robin from harlem

I was the mom who called in speak with the NYT reporter. I think all of these comments show how necessary balanced coverage is and how it is not being provided. Everyone -- even those who are not doctors, patients, or parents of the patient -- has an opinion on & a cure for the cause of what is a medical issue.

If a medical illness is being over-diagnosed, the first question is: how much does the disease appear in the general populace? What studies show that? How do the drugs effect people with the actual illness? Could there be a rise in ADHD?

While the Times reporter said that his coverage has not been negative over the course of the last two years, I challenge him to write one story that is positive about a child being diagnosed with ADHD, being prescribed proper medication, and having a positive overall effect. These stories are out there in real life and are abundant.

The NYT reporter said there is no stigma to the disease -- but just look at the negative comments on this page and you will see the opposite. Many parents are afraid of the diagnosis and afraid of how they and they and their children will be perceived if they give medication. Can you imagine all this commentary for diabetes? Or such a stigma attached to taking insulin?

Apr. 02 2013 11:20 AM

Restore Sanity: just as in any other profession, you will find a few bad apples in psychiatry. The majority are responsibly practicing their profession. Perhaps we should lump every "concerned citizen" into their own professional or social group to be eyed with suspicion.

Yes, today's environment includes variables we couldn't have imagined 100 years ago. As the very wise caller proposed, perhaps the population has always included a percentage of ADHD sufferers, but past generations' careers offered more physical options. For all we know, ADHD might have been a necessary feature in society at some point, whereas now it's more of a "bug."

Psychiatrists are only observing and diagnosing the behavior, regardless of generational context. The pitchfork and torch mob mentality is unnecessary; why do you think one particular occupation is more susceptible to financial incentives than others?

Apr. 02 2013 11:18 AM

Parenting has be replaced with technology and nutrition with recreational consumption.

Apr. 02 2013 11:11 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Not surprised Taher....from cigarettes to sodas, they are ruthless.

Apr. 02 2013 11:02 AM
Dan from Greenpoint

So I haven't read all the comments, but I have my own experience.
The defensiveness and smarminess of your guest not withstanding, we need to take another look.

We always speak of ADHD, we never talk about hyperactivity separately from attention deficit.

At 12 years old, I was diagnosed (after being picked up on by an incredible math teacher) with ADD, no H, by a psychiatrist. i was put on Clonidine, and all it did really, was make me tired. It's a drug linked to sexual dysfunction (which I've experienced) among other things. I stopped taking it on my own when I was 14.

My entire life I've had trouble reading an entire book, or focusing on one thing/task for very long. But my head is clear. My dad didn't want me on opiates, just in case...

I'm still looking for some help not done with drugs, but I have no idea what's out there. I'm 33.

Apr. 02 2013 11:00 AM
Restore Sanity from Westchester

All these ADHD drugs have been off-patent for years. If anyone is pushing them on doctors, it's the supposed "friends of the consumer" generic drug manufacturers, who make their profits on volume selling of older drugs.

And despite his defensiveness, bravo to the guest for pointing out that it is the individual doctor that writes the prescription, not a faceless corporation, and that parents rely on his/her knowledge, professionalism and advice.

Apr. 02 2013 10:55 AM

Karen: I certainly hope you're tolerant of unmedicated ADHD in the adults you encounter daily. They might accidentally forget to substitute decaf in your drink, dedicate time meant for Excel sheets to sketching an invention, or simply annoy you by the number of times they have to jump up from their desks and run around the office. You sound incredibly uneducated when you dismiss a disorder outright because you don't "believe" in it.

Who knows if your son has ADHD, and who cares. I too had it as a kid (and still do as an adult), and I was never able to spend more than 10 minutes a night on homework. I still managed to get As and Bs, as well as a bachelors degree. However, I was only able to advance so far in my career before my diagnosis, and was grateful medication gave me the ability to focus on a project other than during the hours of 2-5am.

I'm also irritated with the emphasis on boys vs girls, as girls are no different. You're only socializing them to be "docile." Regardless of the actual percentage of children with ADHD, it's split down the middle. As a former girl with ADHD, I knew I'd be punished harshly for exhibiting my true self as opposed to the boys who were allowed to get away with such behavior. It's time to stop the "boys will be boys" standard of parenting and teaching.

Apr. 02 2013 10:53 AM
Jacqueline from Roslyn. NY

I agree with Mr Schwarz that labeling 20%of high school boys as having pathology seems absurd. On the other hand both some of his comments as well as the innuendo of his commentary clearly show his bias and is unhelpful. In particular his comment that we give these kids 'the most addictive drugs known' shows a lack of knowledge about these medications as well as the biology/psychology of addiction. I speak from both my training as a pediatrician as well as a mother of a 9 year old boy who after evaluation of over a year we reluctantly started on stimulant medication so that his native abilities could shine through. Like most medications for chronic disease they are not a panacea but they allow others interventions to help children learn and thrive. For our son, the medicine allows the extra tutoring and organizational skills to actually make a difference. We need to discuss the societal issues of so many children being labeled as 'abnormal' and consider what changes might help at the societal level, but it should not be colored by bias about the use of medication or stigmatized so that these children and their families feel shame in using them.

Apr. 02 2013 10:51 AM
Ben from Brooklyn

Thank you for having Alan Schwarz on the show. His story in the NY Times a month ago was truly harrowing and a must read for any parent in today's age.

A scary introduction to the world in which we're raising our kids.

Apr. 02 2013 10:38 AM

This guest simply pushed back at the clearly idiotic status quo.

Apr. 02 2013 10:37 AM

"A 1987 study showed sugar acted as an analgesic drug whose effects could be blocked by a morphine blocker. In her 1998 book, author Kathleen DesMaisons outlined the concept of sugar addiction as a measurable physiological state caused by activation of opioid receptors in the brain and hypothesized that dependence on sugar followed the same track outlined in the DSM IV for other drugs of abuse."

Adderall to counteract the sugar...

Apr. 02 2013 10:34 AM
John A

This show was a great, if partial, antidote to 21-mar: '(No) Limits to Neuroenhancement'. Let's keep up the debate.

Apr. 02 2013 10:33 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Sheldon from Brooklyn,
I’ve seen lots of pharma reps in doctor’s offices. I spoke to one and she said that she would never allow her own kid to take some of the drugs she was selling for the company. She asked me if I knew a pediatrician who has another approach for her child's needs.

Apr. 02 2013 10:32 AM

At least HALF of my kid's 10 yo classmates are rigged with the latest iFones®.

Apr. 02 2013 10:31 AM
fuva from harlemworld

How was this guest combative? He appropriately pushed back against easy answers for a very serious topic.

Apr. 02 2013 10:30 AM
Robert from NYC

You know this pushing things on people thing is starting to go too far. You don't have things "pushed on you" of you don't want them pushed on you!! Not that there aren't legitimate instances of forced behavior but knowing what kinds of things can happen to oneself when certain behavior is practiced gives one the ability to chose or not how one reacts or behaves to different influences. When you know that a 32 oz soda can cause serious health problems and what those are, then you choose or not to drink one! Same with meds and tobacco and whatever.

Apr. 02 2013 10:30 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Wow James and Sydney - I totally didn't get that but to each his own.

Apr. 02 2013 10:29 AM
Joe from New York

Very seldom is the effect of caffeine looked at in terms of its influence on children's behavior. Before medicating a child for ADHD, caffeinated beverages should first be reduced or eliminated from a child's diet.

Apr. 02 2013 10:28 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Yet another reflection of the current zeitgeist to which, as a gadgetocracy, we are far too inattentive.
Tech has perpetuated the expectation of immediate magic.
This has all kinds of behavioral effects with personal and, in turn, societal implications.
Here, in part, kids can't focus, and doctors/parents want that quick fix...

Apr. 02 2013 10:28 AM
SM from NYC

Your guest is wrong. I was able to go to my family physician in college and get an RX for Adderall without going through the proper training. Absolutely had to do with pharma companies and Doctor incentives. Come on!

Apr. 02 2013 10:27 AM
John A

A society that Needs to be rich to survive, EG to medicate everyone, is weaker than the one that doesn't. IMHO

Apr. 02 2013 10:27 AM
James L

This guy is a total idiot. Why is he so combative?


Apr. 02 2013 10:27 AM

the schools pushed my nephew on these drugs back in the 80s.
guess what his life is a big mess today.

Apr. 02 2013 10:27 AM
Sydney from NYC

Your guest is extremely condescendign and rude.

Apr. 02 2013 10:25 AM

How many children who have benn taking the ADHD drugs, need to continue treatment into adulthood? What are the effects of taking the drugs for the rest of their lives?

Apr. 02 2013 10:25 AM



Apr. 02 2013 10:25 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

No, I don't think that 20% are 'ill'...20% *are* non-conforming or difficult to 'control'. Nothing that running an extra mile BEFORE school starts wouldn't largely burn-off. Too many drugs and too many parents that don't know how to raise their children to be polite and mannered.

We are WAY over over-drugging our youth.

Apr. 02 2013 10:25 AM
Marie from Washington Heights, NYC

Our story .... I empathize, however, I wish the 14 year old teenager (girl) who lives above us (apt bldg) were on medication for her ADHD; it's been pure hell living underneath an ADHD child (for 10 years now), constant running, stomping - everything bothers her, if you make a piece of toast, cooking "odors" can cause a tantrum outburst. She no longer goes to school any more but is now home schooled - even worse for us, who work p.t. also from home.

Apr. 02 2013 10:24 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

How hard does big pharm push doctors to prescribe to kids, with what's in effect - legal meth?

Apr. 02 2013 10:23 AM

Back in the day they said my younger bro was "hyperactive" and suggested medication(he was the 5th of 5 kids). My parents said no and he has 2 college degrees and graduated from alw school summa cud laude. ADHD medication is a racket.

Apr. 02 2013 10:22 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Bravo, excellent numbers for the Pharmaceutical industry. Pharma will make more money then ever pushing toxins on parents and children for generations to come.

Apr. 02 2013 10:20 AM
patricia leitch from Morristown, NJ

Brian, I can't get in on the lines, but has anyone addressed all the environmental factors in addition to electronics that play into this. Nitrates, food dyes, sugar, etc have been shown to increase hyperactivity and decrease attention in kids of all ages/. While maybe no double blind conclusive studies have been done, any parent can watch their young child after dinner and icecream at a fast food restaurant and see behavior differences. My son was recently diagnosed with "borderline" ADD, the non hyperactive type. I have tried hard to eliminate processed food, increase good protiens and vegetables and immediately he started doing better in school. While medications may be necessary for some, we need a natural protocol to start with for many of these borderline kids!! Thank you.

Apr. 02 2013 10:20 AM

Kids need more high fructose corn syrup, white bread and pasta, video games, television, overall gadget screen time and LESS quality (unconnected) parent face time.

...oh, and LOADS of catsup!

Apr. 02 2013 10:20 AM
Susan from North Salem, NY

Hal: it's exhausted teachers just trying to keep quiet in the classroom so they can teach to the test, and anxious parents medicating the children to allow them to do well on the tests. This is all directly linked to No Child Left Behind. Follow the money: corporate education companies benefit from testing materials, Big Pharma benefits from meds.

Apr. 02 2013 10:20 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Amen Becky - some monkey bars, sun, and a push cart would solve a lot of these "ailments."

Apr. 02 2013 10:20 AM

Could the guest discuss the prevalence of the diagnosis in specific populations, in terms of race and class? And if they see any connection with the emphasis on standardized test scores and diagnosis.

Apr. 02 2013 10:20 AM
Nick from UWS

Maybe if children were allowed to be children, and to run and play outside unhampered by PC bullshit and helicopter parenting, and their imaginations were not poisoned by computers and TV and all the other crap, and the Ritalin drug pushers were not hovering over them like vultures with mysterious "diagnosis'" and "conditions", we would have far healthier children. This is just more of the evil effects of the modern corporate world.

Apr. 02 2013 10:19 AM
The Truth from Becky

Brain disorder? I don't think so...this is an extreme equal to the helmets, Elbow pads, Knee pads et al that it takes for a kid to ride a bike these days!

It's all of the electronic device stimuli that is causing impatience and short attention span in children...some adults too.

Apr. 02 2013 10:16 AM
Hal from Crown Heights

Who is qualified to make this diagnosis and what are the criteria?

Apr. 02 2013 10:15 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Peg

Nope. That's why we're developing robots.

Apr. 02 2013 10:15 AM
Susan from North Salem, NY

Are all these kids really suffering from an attention deficit? Or is it that we are expecting more and more adult-like behavior from them at earlier and earlier ages, and rather than label the expectations as ridiculous, we label the children as somehow defective for not meeting them. No child can sit still and tune into the mind-numbingly boring material being passed off as "education" today. I know few adults who could either!

Apr. 02 2013 10:14 AM
Karen from NYC

Complete bull - a culturally constructed disease. Our son was "diagnosed" 15 years ago. We told the school and doctor that they would drug him over our dead bodies. He is fine. College senior. Total and complete bull - these are active boys in school programs that do not take biology into account.

Apr. 02 2013 10:14 AM
The Truth from Becky

Hilarious! "Don't blame the messenger Buddy"

Apr. 02 2013 10:14 AM

More and more of our children are being diagnosed with some sort of health problem/disability. Will there be enough able bodied adults to take care of (EVERYTHING) when these "special" kids reach adulthood. Actually, I'd like to know the total number of children today diagnosed with some sort of disability.

Apr. 02 2013 10:07 AM

Is the link between ADHD and gluten well established?

Apr. 02 2013 09:11 AM

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