Why are More and More Americans Being Treated for A.D.H.D. Every Year?

The trend

The nare-doctors-diagnosing-too-many-kid_3umber of diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has ballooned over the past few decades. Before the early 1990s, fewer than 5 percent of school-age kids were thought to have A.D.H.D. Earlier this year, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 had at some point received the diagnosis — and that doesn’t even include first-time diagnoses in adults.

Could government policy be the reason?

The beginning of A.D.H.D. as an “epidemic” corresponds with a couple of important policy changes that incentivized diagnosis. The incorporation of A.D.H.D. under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act in 1991 — and a subsequent overhaul of the Food and Drug Administration in 1997 that allowed drug companies to more easily market directly to the public — were hugely influential…For the first time, the diagnosis came with an upside — access to tutors, for instance, and time allowances on standardized tests.

Source: NYT Magazine.

Comments (11)

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  1. Perry says:

    The diagnosis may be epidemic, but unless specific criteria and evalutation are followed, I think it’s a mistake to call the disease an epidemic.
    Secondly, the medications used to treat this disorder have significant short and long term side effects, they are essentially amphetamines.
    We seem to be fond of “medicalizing” many things here in the U. S. and it’s no wonder healthcare costs and spending are out of control.

  2. Lucas says:

    Are Doctors being pressured to diagnose in order to prescribe?

  3. PJ says:

    For the first time, the diagnosis came with an upside — access to tutors, for instance, and time allowances on standardized tests.

    The additional time on standardized testing and the like – and this extends all throughout graduate school, law school, etc. – should be stopped. You don’t get extra time in real life.

    • Rutledge says:

      Does standardized testing happen in real life? I think we could kill two birds with one stone here.

  4. Crawford says:

    “When Hinshaw compared the rollout of these school policies with incidences of A.D.H.D., he found that when a state passed laws punishing or rewarding schools for their standardized-test scores, A.D.H.D. diagnoses in that state would increase not long afterward.” (KOERTH-BAKER)

    There are so many misaligned incentives. When will a committee be formed to fix these?

  5. Connor says:

    Not a believe of ADHD, never will be