is adhd fake?

psychotropic drugs

A few days ago, one of my readers sent me a link to an article which asserts that the man who “discovered” ADHD admitted on his deathbed that it is an invented, fictitious disease. The source of this story was a 2012 article in Der Spiegel, about an interview which took place seven months before the death of American psychiatrist Leon Eisenberg MD, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 87.

After looking into the story, the context of the Der Spiegel article appears to have been Dr. Eisenberg’s expression of dismay that the disease he discovered is so widely and inappropriately diagnosed. It’s sort of like Dr. Frankenstein wondering what kind of monster he’d created. So in these instances of misdiagnoses, at least, ADHD is a fake disease. Maybe the writer from Der Spiegel took Dr. Eisenberg’s comments further than Eisenberg had intended, maybe not. What’s circulating on the Internet, though, is that the creator of ADHD said it’s not a real disease. And it’s a good thing, I think, that some people are taking a second look.

In the area of psychiatry, any human shortcoming can be spun into a disease—especially if it can be “treated” by prescription drugs. From an early age, we are taught to run away from our issues and pop a pill. There’s a lot of money in human nature.

Of the 137 panel members for the DSM-V manual (the book which is used to define and document psychological disorders for financial reimbursement) who have posted disclosure statements, 76 (or 56%) had one or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry. Some are extremely well-paid. Just one example: The Assistant Director of the Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School received “$1 million in earnings from drug companies between 2000 and 2007.”

There have been instances of a drug being created before the disease for which it is to be used for treatment. The vocabulary of the psychological field is driven to a great degree by the drug companies.

Since 1968—for some 40 years—Dr. Eisenberg’s “disease” has haunted the diagnostic and statistical manuals, first as “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood”, and now as “ADHD”. In the United States every tenth boy among ten year-olds already swallows an ADHD medication on a daily basis. Approximately 90% of patients with ADHD take the drug Ritalin, a drug that is very similar to cocaine.

Dr. Mary Ann Block is the author of No More Ritalin. She refers to the drug as “kiddie cocaine” and contends it can cause dangerous behavior. “These drugs are mind-altering drugs. And in the case of Ritalin, it’s a drug almost identical to cocaine—goes to the same receptor site in the brain, causes the same high when taken in the same manner,” Dr. Block said.

Experts do not agree about the safety of this and other drugs. There is considerable evidence that psychotropic drugs may cause psychotic episodes in a minority of patients that result in violence and death. Two-thirds of ADHD symptoms can be more safely controlled by diet. In other words, the prevalence of processed foods may be contributing to ADHD.

But the ethical considerations go beyond this.

In November 2011, the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics (NEK) critically commented on the use of the ADHD drug Ritalin in its opinion, Human Enhancement by Means of Pharmacological Agents. The consumption of pharmacological agents, they said, altered the child’s behavior without any contribution on his or her part.

That amounted to interference in the child’s freedom and personal rights, because pharmacological agents induced behavioral changes but failed to educate the child on how to achieve these behavioral changes independent of the drug. The child was thus deprived of an essential learning experience to act autonomously and “considerably curtails children’s freedom and impairs their personality development.”

Not good.

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Groove of the Day 

Listen to Weezer performing “We Are All On Drugs”

5 Responses to “is adhd fake?”

  1. 1 Frank Manning
    May 25, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    It’s not fake, but it certainly is too widely and inappropriately diagnosed.

    I know quite a few people, both kids and adults, who are truly ADHD. My stepson Curtis is one of the adults. He describes what goes on inside his head as being “like downed power lines sparking and dancing in the street.” Some of the kids are or have been on medication for ADHD. Grandson Brandon takes ritalin but only before going to school. Never on weekends or after school. It really does help him function in school and have a positive experience there. Granddaughter Lexi was on adderall, which is dextro-amphetamine–the “white crossroads” for you counterculture upper freaks. She looked like a twig and ate like a canary, and it didn’t seem to be helping her in any way. So we convinced her other grandmother to discontinue the medication–and her doctor agreed! Her hyperactive behavior didn’t change but she started eating normally and no longer looks like a starving refugee child.

    Another grandson is definitely ADHD, but his mother agrees with us that he will not be medicated. We have been using a modification of DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) in association with his counselor. It seems to be helping. Yet another grandson and a grandnephew probably have SPD, sensory processing disorder, a new-fangled diagnosis that is not yet recognized in the standard medical manuals. I think it represents a better understanding of ADHD and an associated spectrum of rambunctious behaviors and different learning modalities that cannot be simply dismissed as childish exuberance.

    Psychiatry and medicine in general can be abused, especially by those who wish to profit financially from someone else’s discomfort. Schools want docile children and are willing to badger parents into drugging their kids if they are too busy or restless in class. Parents have to learn to say “No effing way” if school officials suggest or even demand that their kids be medicated. But we have to realize that it’s not all quackery and bullshit. Some people really have this disorder. And sometimes the medications help. But the broad brush that is currently being used is doing way too much harm.

  2. 2 anonymouse
    May 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    We resisted both a diagnosis and use of medications for our son’s condition, but finally, as he struggled in high school, we relented and tried Strattera (atomoxetine HCl), a non-narcotic norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Positive results were quickly noticed in his level of attention and socialization, but he continued to have significant stomach irritation, resulting in vomiting and irregularity. Unbeknownst to us, he stopped taking the medication due to those side effects, which we discovered only when he started having suicidal thoughts and making suicidal statements. He is an adult now, and can make his own decisions about his condition, but unless there is significant impairment of daily activities, I would never recommend he take any medications to treat his issues. He works with a counselor now, and we have seen positive results which we hope will lead to his greater independence. His reaction may be unique, and I have no doubt that there are some who simply can’t function without some form of medicinal help, but from our experience, we would recommend always trying alternatives first.

    • 3 Connor L
      May 26, 2013 at 7:31 pm

      I too take Steretta, and I had the same problems with it…at first. Once my system got ‘used’ to it, I started feeling the effects immediately I have improved focus, attention to detail and im not as hyper when im off it.

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