Though the New York Times article, A.D.H.D. Seen in 11% of U.S. Children as Diagnoses Rise, was dated March 31, 2013, after reading it one would have hoped the story would have been published on April 1st instead. That way we could have supposed the information was part of an elaborate April Fools prank. Unfortunately, not the case.
As the Times reported, new data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) show a staggering 20% of high school age boys and 11% of all school-age children in the U.S. have received a medical diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Historically, only 3% to 7% of children were thought to be affected. Those data alone are disquieting enough, but the realization that the diagnoses have been attended by a corresponding spike in prescription drug use to combat the ADHD problem makes the news even more worrisome.
According to the CDC there has been a 53% rise in the use of childhood behavorial prescription drugs over the last decade. Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta and Vyanse are the most commonly prescribed such stimulants. Sales have skyrocketed in conjunction with the ADHD diagnoses. In 2007 $4 billion worth of such stimulants were sold. In 2012 the figure more than doubled to $9 billion.
The correlation between the rapid rise in ADHD diagnoses and behavior-modifying drug treatments, the removal of physical education from the American school curricula, and the advancement of standardized testing over Socratic learning is not coincidental. Nor is it benign, as the long term implications of this trend are already becoming manifest. Perhaps most tellingly, the United States continues to fall behind other countries in science, reading, and math.
RUN THEM FIRST
In a 2001study conducted at the State University of New York at Buffalo investigators looked at the effects of intense exercise on the behavior of ADHD-diagnosed children. Dr. Michael S. Wendt, Ed.D. designed and headed the study, the results of which indicated a significant improvement in the behaviors of ADHD children.
“I saw a correlation between exercise and behavior,” Wendt reported in 2001, “especially when it came to ADHD children. When practice sessions were intense, at the beginning of an athletic season, behavior problems of student-athletes did not occur as frequently as they did when practices focused less on conditioning.”
While Dr. Wendt’s current position hasn’t allowed him enough time to continue researching and writing on the issue, he remains a firm proponent of strenuous exercise as a means of addressing childhood behavioral problems.
“I have always felt that the ADHD issue is something we (running) should embrace,” Dr. Wendt replied when I sought his opinion on the NY Times story. “It may be the expression of a gene that makes a certain number of us fall two standard deviations above the mean, whether we are running a marathon or discovering the next great cure for disease.
“I have always felt the addiction thing and ADHD thing are somewhat related,” he continued. “Unfortunately meds burn back receptor sites in the brain to get a change in brain chemistry. It is well documented that exercise builds-up these networks. I think the choice (exercise versus meds) is quite clear at this simple level. ”
Now Superintendent of School at Wilson Central School District outside Buffalo, New York, Dr. Wendt also points out, ‘it seems that they (Big Pharma) are also ramping up the ADHD awareness in our adult population as well’.
Why wouldn’t they? Why jettison such credulous customers after you’ve hooked them at an impressionable age?