Most people are familiar with ADHD and the stimulant drugs that are prescribed for treatment. What most people don’t know is that the information they get about ADHD and/or about ADHD drugs is mostly false, lacking or misleading. Drug companies go to great lengths to make profits and their drugs to treat ADHD are no exception. What people need to know is that drug companies are primarily focused on profits from ADHD drugs and not on the well-being of a child diagnosed with ADHD.
Doctors, clinicians, health care practitioners and the like want people to get well. They should care about the well-being of their patients, but being in health care is a business. Selling drugs is a business. Just like any other product, good marketing sells more products. If you like the ad for Cheerios, you are going to want to try Cheerios. In the case of ADHD drugs, advertising and promotions have gotten out of hand and as a result, millions of children are on stimulant drugs unnecessarily.
In 1990, six hundred thousand children were on ADHD medication. Today, it is around three and one half million. Fifteen percent of high school kids receive an ADHD diagnosis. Ten percent of high school boys are put on stimulant drugs. This sounds like ADHD has gone in the direction of an epidemic, but this is far from the truth. The main reason all these kids are being diagnosed and put on stimulant medication is because of the false or misleading information coming from the drug companies.
The rise of diagnoses and prescriptions coincides with the twenty year campaign by drug companies to publicize ADHD and promote their drugs to doctors, parents and educators. This started in 1997 when drug companies used their muscle to make it legal to advertise directly to consumers. This is strictly forbidden in other developed countries, but here drug ads unfortunately influence the consumer’s choices.
This is why you see ads in magazines, newspapers and on television for all kinds of drugs. As for the ADHD ads, it is portrayed that ADHD is easily handled with a pill and everyone will be happy. It is emphasized how beneficial the drug is first so that the consumer wants it. The serious side effects are on subsequent pages or rushed through, hoping the consumer won’t notice. This prevents a consumer from making a fully informed decision.
Shire, which makes Adderall, has gone so far as to make ADHD almost “cool.” They have published a comic book for kids using superheroes that tell kids that meds make it easier to pay attention and control their behavior. They have also employed celebrities like Adam Levine of Maroon Five to tell kids he had ADHD as a kid and still does. He even has a slogan: It’s your ADHD. Own it.
It is ridiculous that drug companies are allowed to promote ADHD and their drugs as if they were as insignificant as Cheerios. These drugs are not “magic pills” but classified by the FDA as Schedule II drugs meaning they are high risk for abuse and dependence like morphine and cocaine which are in the same class.
Adderall is an amphetamine which is addictive. Some of the potential side effects are: elevation of blood pressure, heart attack, hypertension, depression, uncontrollable body movements, tics, psychotic episodes, seizures, strokes and Tourette’s Syndrome. It is most likely that Shire didn’t bother to educate Adam Levine about these side effects either, but gave him false and misleading information as well.
The drug companies also put doctors on their payroll to “educate” other doctors about ADHD and treatment. Some doctors say ADHD drugs are safer than aspirin! Some say the drugs aren’t addictive. As stated above, they are clearly addictive and not safe. Some claim the side effects are mild despite clinical trials showing insomnia, mood swings, hallucinations and the like. Some go as far to claim that those with ADHD will face job failure, car wrecks and crime later in life. One even had the audacity to say that carelessness in childhood leads to unwanted pregnancies and STDs in adult life! Where are the studies to back up these claims?
These claims are crazy, but these doctors are getting paid by the drug companies to promote ADHD and the benefits of treatment. These claims are not backed by science as there are no long-term studies. But there is “research” published by doctors on the payroll to encourage more diagnosing of ADHD and to discredit any concerns of over-diagnosing.
Drug companies also use representatives as another way to “educate” doctors. Drug reps visit the doctor’s office and give him or her samples along with the sales pitch. One in particular from Shire said he was told to play down the side effects or abuse potential if asked. He was instructed to tell them to look at the package insert or call the drug company. There was never any concern to tell doctors to watch out for the potential side effects.
This really brings into question the ethics and morals of one Shire executive. He was quoted as saying that Shire markets in a responsible way and in compliance with regulations. He likes to think that they come from a higher order because they are dealing with patients’ health. It would be good to know how he thinks playing down serious potential side effects and abuse is marketing responsibly to the patient.
It should be clear by now that drug companies act in the interest of profits, not the patients’ well being. ADHD drugs are a cash cow. Twenty years ago the profits were in the tens of millions. Today, they are almost ten billion. With so much money coming in, the FDA must seem like a tiny annoying fly every time an ADHD drug company gets caught for false or misleading advertising. Since 2000, every major ADHD drug company has violated the law, some multiple times.
The American Psychiatric Association receives a significant amount of money from drug companies, so they were more than happy to expand the symptoms of ADHD to allow for more diagnoses and more prescriptions. Even worse, some doctors are recommending ADHD drugs to improve academic performance when the child has no ADHD symptoms! There are ads that promote schoolwork to match the child’s intelligence by using a stimulant drug. This is reckless and irresponsible. It is comparable to putting a kid on steroids to bulk up for football but not knowing how the steroids will affect him later in life.
Giving a child ADHD drugs is doing a random experiment with no idea of what the long-term effects will be. These drugs do alter brain chemistry and it is not known what the result will be in the long run. Parents need to ignore the ads and get the truth. There are certainly children that have issues and behavior problems, but don’t be lured into the hype of ADHD.
Lastly, it is important to know that there is not one medical test used to diagnose ADHD. A child is labeled with ADHD based on a group of symptoms which are largely open to interpretation. How else do you think such a boom was allowed to come about? It is not a medical condition, but a behavior problem decided by and created by psychiatrists. The chemical imbalance theory is complete bull, as there is no science to prove it as fact.
Get yourself educated so you can find real help for your child, not “help” motivated by money. Also, be aware that you as an adult are now a target for drug companies. Since the market for ADHD drugs for children is now established, the adult market is next, as it looks to be even more profitable.