Are We Overmedicating Our Children?

By Eileen Bailey

One of the main reasons for critics to believe ADHD is over-diagnosed is because of the increase in medications being prescribed to treat ADHD. According to an article, Almost Half of Kids with ADHD Are Not Being Treated, Study Finds, on, the amount of children taking medications for ADHD tripled between 1975 and 1987. The number of adolescents taking medication for ADHD more than doubled between 1990 and 1995. Indeed, throughout the years, the use of ADHD medications has increased dramatically.


But does that indicate children are being diagnosed with ADHD unnecessarily? Or could there be other reasons for this increase? A number of different events occurred between the year 1975 and 1987. ADHD was renamed from Minimal Brain Dysfunction to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The Feingold Association (founded 1976) received publicity for their additive free diet, originally created for children with allergies, but publicized as a way to decrease hyperactivity in children. Parents and doctors began to be more aware of ADHD and see it as a viable diagnosis.


During the years between 1990 and 1995, even more information about ADHD became generally available. CHADD (Children and Adults with ADD) came into existence in 1987 and ADDA (Attention Deficit Disorder Association) began in 1989, helping to bring awareness about ADHD to parents across the country. During this time, it was accepted that a person did not “grow out” of ADHD but often continued to suffer from symptoms into adulthood. ADHD was seen often on television, with regular debates over medication usage. Although this was negative publicity, it continued to improve awareness of ADHD. Doctors continued to become more aware and more knowledgeable about ADHD and the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. Additional medications, besides Ritalin came onto the market.


As awareness of ADHD grew, so did the number of people seeking treatment for ADHD. As physician’s confidence in the diagnostic process improved, family doctors were able to diagnose and treat ADHD. Access to treatment became more widespread and therefore increased.

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