April 3, 2012
Preventing ADHD Misdiagnoses in Children
“The drugging of children for A.D.H.D. has become an epidemic.” (Breggin, 2011, Para.1). More than five million children between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD (CDC, 2012) and almost three million children have been prescribed stimulant medications to treat this disorder (Breggin, 2011). Several studies have been done to show the alarming rate of ADHD misdiagnoses in children and the many reasons why. There are also numerous studies showing that ADHD medication can lead to heart problems and later life memory problems. Upon learning more about the health risks of ADHD medication and knowing of the effects that these medications can have on children in adulthood, we need to find a way to be sure of a medical diagnosis before prescribing these medications. It has become apparent that the many misdiagnoses of ADHD has incorrectly medicated many children and may lead to dangerous long term effects. Recently concern has been raised that the existing criteria for diagnosing ADHD might be too conservative or restrictive. Due to this concern, a study was performed to see how many therapists were over diagnosing ADHD and why. Researchers compared how many boys vs. girls were diagnosed along with how many therapists used the diagnostic requirements vs. subjective assumptions of the disorder. In this study 20% of therapists diagnosed ADHD even though two of the diagnostic criteria were not met also shows that the over diagnosis of ADHD resulted in more frequent recommendation for medication and that the majority of children receiving stimulant treatment fell far below the threshold of an ADHD diagnosis. Results from this study show that in addition to the issues about the adequacy of the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis, a major objective should also be addressing the influence of heuristics and biases when diagnosing ADHD. (Bruchmüller, K., Margraf, J., & Schneider, S.; 2012). Another study found that nearly 1 million kids are potentially misdiagnosed with ADHD just because they are the youngest in their kindergarten year and do not yet have the maturity for self-control (Landau, 2010). Todd Elder at Michigan State University found that the age of a child relative to other children in the same class has an effect on the way a teacher views ADHD symptoms. “If a child is behaving poorly, if he’s inattentive, if he can’t sit still, it may simply be because he’s 5 and the other kids are 6,” said Elder (Hickey, 2010, Para. 3). Elder’s study also showed that being young in a grade more than doubles the likelihood of receiving an ADHD diagnosis (Landau, 2010). Along with the information about ADHD misdiagnoses, researchers are also starting to look at the negative side effects of stimulant medications that are given to help with ADHD symptoms. Most people know about the standard risks of these medications like stunted growth, weight loss, and disturbed sleep, but as more studies are done, we are learning about more dangerous side effects, like liver damage and even cardiac problems that can lead to death. One study showed that some men who were taking stimulants as children are being diagnosed with amphetamine brain syndrome, which is the shrinking of the brain (Carrizales, 2010). Dr. Peter Breggin referred to a study published recently in the American Journal of Psychiatry that shows that the stimulant medication used to treat children for ADHD can cause sudden cardiac arrest and even death. This study included amphetamines like Adderall and Dexedrine along with methylphenidate medications like Ritalin, Concerta, and Focalin but focused more on Ritalin because at the time it was the most commonly used. “The results of this study were as dramatic as they were tragic. Children and youth ages 7 to 19 taking prescribed...