Today's New Drug Push: "Adult ADHD"
Are you easily distracted? Do you start things but not finish them? Are you often "on the go?" According to the American Psychiatric Association, you might have a psychiatric disorder.
How about this: do you avoid things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time? Do you have trouble getting organized? Do you procrastinate? If so, Big Medicine says that you just might have Adult ADHD. And guess what? Big Pharma has a drug for you.
As a parent — now a grandparent — and as a health professional, few things have made me as angry as the movement to "medicate" kids into conformity by slapping them with the "ADHD" label. Although I can't deny that hyperactivity really does exist, I will argue that it's extremely uncommon. What we're "medicating" out of kids is creativity, imagination, and the ability to just… be kids.
And now they want to drug the joy out of life for us adults too.
A short history of ADHD... in case you got distracted
What we now call ADHD — Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder — has been recognized for a long time. It was first described at the turn of the twentieth century, and has worn a variety of different names since then. However, until the 1980s it was reserved only for the most extreme behaviors. The 80s saw the list of "symptoms" grow ever more broad and vague, so that by the 90s nearly any normal, moderately bright, moderately active kid fit the criteria.
Society was going through some serious upheavals in the 80s. A new generation was hitting adulthood and having kids. Public education was hitting an all-time low, with overcrowded classrooms, poor teacher training, and a crop of kids who'd been raised by daycare centers instead of parents. We were also still at the point where we believed that doctors knew best and that Big Pharma really had our health at heart. All this created the perfect storm. Conditions were right to present the world with "ADHD."
By 2011, an incredible eleven percent of the nation's kids had been diagnosed with this vague "disorder." And of course the treatment for this "disorder" is a pricey drug. A powerful, addictive drug with a list of side effects as long as your arm. A drug related to methamphetamine.
In recent years, however, there's been some push-back against medicating kids. As the first generation of Ritalin kids has grown up, they've had some scathing things to say. And as the young parents of the 80s have become middle-aged grandparents, their perspective has changed too. There's a movement to treat "ADHD" kids first with behavioral therapy rather than with drugs.
Big Pharma has to find a new market. And they're looking at you.
Big Pharma wants YOU on a psychiatric drug
Psychiatry has its own Bible. It's called the DSM-V, and it's what shrinks use to validate giving us drugs. It's a huge list of "mental health conditions" and their supposed symptoms. It's updated every few years, and each time it's updated it grows exponentially. The newest version has entries like "oppositional-defiant disorder" — which in plain English means standing up to authority and asserting your rights. It includes "social anxiety disorder," which in my day and yours was simply known as being shy. The next version will likely add things like "orthorexia nervosa," or wanting to eat healthy food.
I kid you not.
And guess what? For every "condition" listed, there's a corresponding drug — or in some cases, drugs. Plural. Psychiatric drugs, from antidepressants to ADHD meds, are big, BIG business. And Big Pharma is watching a cash cow mosey on out of the barn as the childhood-ADHD market slowly dries up. They have to do something. So now they're targeting adults.
Ads are appearing on the internet. "Support" forums are popping up. Spam email is piling up, and the news outlets are starting to carry stories about the "hidden epidemic" of adult ADHD. It's a subtle push, but it's happening. It's insidious. And because the diagnostic criteria for ADHD are so vague — easily distracted, procrastination, etc. — nearly everyone in the country fits it at one point or another.
The ads and news stories combine to work on our subconscious. If we see the lists of so-called symptoms often enough, sooner or later we begin to wonder. What if I'm wrong? What if it really is a problem? What if I really have ADHD and that's why I can't ________. (Insert your own problem here. Get ahead at work. Hold onto a girlfriend/boyfriend. Remember where I put my car keys half the time. Or whatever your issue happens to be that day.)
It's brainwashing, pure and simple. It's how they hooked us into giving millions of our kids drugs a decade ago, but it's more sophisticated.
Don't buy into it.
Everyone gets distracted sometimes.
Everyone has days when they can't sit still.
Everyone sometimes starts projects but doesn't finish them, or has a hard time staying on task. It's called being human, and it's not a psychiatric disorder. Chances are, if you're one of the rare people who truly is hyperactive, you can't stay focused long enough to read this newsletter. A more likely explanation for the symptoms of "adult ADHD" is plain old stress, maybe with a touch of anxiety thrown in. So instead of signing up for a prescription, try this:
De-stress. Turn off your cell phone. Get enough sleep. Meditate. Get some exercise. Eat a healthy diet that isn't full of processed junk. And most of all, slow down. "Adult ADHD" is as much a symptom of too much multitasking as anything else.
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