The number of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the U.S. and around the world has skyrocketed over the past two decades and new research says drug-industry marketing is a key factor driving the trend.
In a new study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, Brandeis University professor Peter Conrad attributes ADHD’s global growth to five trends:
* Expanded lobbying efforts by drug companies;
* The adaptation of the American-based Diagnostic and Statistical Manual standards, which are broader and have a lower threshold for diagnosing ADHD, which is usually treated by psychiatrists with medication;
* Promotion of pharmaceutical treatments by ADHD advocacy groups that work closely with drug companies;
* The easy availability of ADHD information and self-diagnosis via the Internet; and
* The growth of biological psychiatry.
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Conrad noted drug companies are effective lobbyists, and have spurred some countries to relax marketing restrictions on stimulants. He added that psychoanalytic treatment with talk therapy is giving way to biological psychiatry — treating psychological problems with drugs. At the same time, more countries are American-based diagnosis and treatment standards, ADHD advocacy groups often promote medication and the availability of ADHD information via the Internet empowers consumers to ask for prescription treatment.
He added that ADHD drugs are not very effective for many children with attention deficits. “There is no pharmacological magic bullet,” he said.