Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has become a popular diagnosis for adults as well as children. The diagnosis of ADHD is based on a list of subjective symptoms listed in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), psychiatry’s billing manual.

Some of these symptoms are:
1. Often fails to place close attention to details
2. Often doesn’t listen
3. Often has difficulty with organization
4. Often distracted
5. Often forgetful
6. Often “on the go”
7. Often has difficulty awaiting turn
8. Often interrupts
9. Often talks excessively
10. Often fidgets

As you can see, each and every symptom starts with the word, “Often”. Often is a word meaning “frequently”, “repeatedly” or “ a lot”. Can anyone tell me objectively what any of those words mean? Probably not. That’s because they are all subjective. Yes, “often” is in the eye of the beholder. What one person thinks is “often”, most certainly will not be what someone else thinks it is.

So what we have is a psychiatric diagnosis that is being given to millions of adults and children, and it is entirely subjective. Sure, you may have many of those symptoms and those symptoms may be interfering with your life and your ability to function as successfully as you wish, but does that really mean you have ADHD?

For children, the diagnosis is most commonly given after the teachers and parents complete a checklist. Again, the symptoms on the checklist are completely subjective. Often, no medical or educational evaluation is performed, just the checklist.

With adults, there may not even be a checklist. I have had teenagers and young adults tell me how easy it is to get a diagnosis of ADHD and a prescription drug to go with it. They tell me that they find the symptoms on-line then report the symptoms to a doctor, who prescribes a Class II, controlled and addictive substance to them without so much as a physical exam.

What they are doing with the drug after filling the prescription may surprise you. Studies have found that they are selling the drugs to friends or on the street. Because these ADHD drugs are often addictive ones, in the same class as cocaine, teenagers and adults may become addicted themselves. Most ADHD drugs are amphetamines and can cause symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, anger, fighting, impaired judgment as well as confusion, seizures and even coma.

If the addictive profile and potential side effects of these drugs aren’t bad enough, there is adequate information to question if they are even effective. According to The Journal of Family Practice (June 2011), children and adolescents diagnosed ADHD actually complete fewer years of school and underperform in both educational and occupational settings. I think there is a reason for that.

ADHD drugs will not fix a learning problem, a diet problem, a thyroid problem or an allergy problem, any one of which could be causing the ADHD symptoms. To give adults the best chance of success in their work environment and in life, we should not be giving them an ADHD diagnosis and an addictive drug. We should be looking for the underlying cause of the ADHD symptoms and treating that.

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