Why is ADHD Rampant Only in the United States?

by | May 27, 2013

It is all too common these days that a child who can’t sit still in class or can’t focus on his school work will be diagnosed with ADHD and put on psychotropic drugs as treatment.  At least nine percent of American school children have been given such a diagnosis and medication.  However, in France only half of one percent of school children have met the same fate.  How is it possible that ADHD has reached epidemic proportions in the United States but in France it is negligible?
There are several reasons for this.  In the United States, undesirable behavior is considered by the field of psychiatry to be a biological problem.  Generally, “experts” say it is caused by a defect in the brain, like the chemical imbalance theory for example.  Since the behavior supposedly stems from a biological condition, the treatment is psychiatric drugs.  These drugs are supposed to correct that alleged defect.  No other solution or treatment is usually offered by psychiatry.  This makes the American handling of undesirable behavior a one track railroad and basically shows a very limited point of view.
The French on the other hand, do not advocate ADHD as a biological condition and do not automatically use psychiatric drugs as treatment.  The French quite wisely look for the underlying cause of the undesirable behavior.  They have found that the causes are from the child’s environment, namely from social situations involving family, friends and school relationships.  They generally handle this with family counseling and not drugs.
Additionally, the French do not use the DSM which does not address any potential underlying causes of certain behaviors.  About thirty years ago, they found that the DSM did not align with their findings.   Instead, they decided to create their own classification system to identify and address underlying causes of children’s behavioral problems.  The French manual is based on finding causes of symptoms, not using drugs which only mask symptoms.
Since the French look for actual causes of behavior and remedy them, they wind up with fewer children that can qualify for an ADHD diagnosis.  Their criteria for diagnosis are more precise, also contributing to less French children with ADHD.  One may ask how can the criteria be different in one country versus another?  Aren’t the criteria universal?
The criteria for ADHD are not universal.  When you have a real medical disease, the criteria are universal.  With cancer for example, a biopsy is done and cells are studied under a microscope.  This is a medical test that identifies the disease. Since there are no medical tests to identify ADHD, it is not a real biological disease. 
In the United States, the precise medical test for ADHD is replaced with subjective opinions.  These are the only tools for diagnosis of ADHD in this country.   This means the diagnostic criteria can vary as opinions vary.  Three different doctors could diagnose three different conditions for the same child.  One could diagnose ADHD, another could diagnose bipolar disorder and yet another could diagnose something else. 
One should also know that psychiatric diagnosis and treatment of ADHD and other childhood “disorders” are big business in the United States.  One would hope drug companies would have honest intentions in funding research in the field of mental health, but they do not.  Today the field of psychiatry and drug companies have become partners in profits.  Today, they are not looking at wiping out real diseases like polio and smallpox that were threatening the overall health of society years ago.  Instead, they are creating “disorders” to correspond to new drugs in order to make huge profits. 
In effect, psychiatry has given themselves permission to take normal childhood behavior and call it ADHD or some other “mental disorder.”  They have taken the liberty to put forth their opinions as fact when their opinions cannot be substantiated because they have no test.  As a result, billions of dollars are being made at the expense of many millions of American children being unnecessarily put on drugs. 
While the French are looking for social factors that can explain “ADHD behavior,” Americans are putting their kids on psychotropic drugs.  While the French are smart to check out children’s nutrition to see if that affects their child’s behavior, Americans are drugging their kids with Ritalin.  While the French are investigating allergens, preservatives and artificial food colors to see if these negatively affect their child, Americans are being told psychotropic drugs are the answer.  Does anybody get the idea by now that there are other causes of “ADHD behavior” and that drugs are not the answer?
One other thing that should be made clear is that ADHD drugs like Ritalin and Adderall do more harm than good.  They have multiple serious adverse side effects such as stunting growth and even sudden death for those with a heart condition.  Also in the long-term there is no evidence that they change academic performance or improve behavior. 
In short-term studies, teachers and parents have said that behavior improved.  They said the kids were better at doing repetitive tasks requiring concentration and diligence.  However, it was also found that all children responded to the drug in the same way, whether diagnosed with ADHD or not!  If the drug has the same effect on everyone, this means the drug is not fixing any brain “defect” or any other underlying condition.  It just means the drug is influencing a normal child to behave in a certain way. 
Considering ADHD drugs are in the same class as cocaine and in effect giving a child Ritalin or any other stimulant is equal to giving a child speed, is this really the direction that parents want to go?  What kind of message is being given to a child if he’s told he needs to be drugged so he behaves appropriately in class?  
Regardless, that controlled behavior won’t last because over time one builds up a tolerance to ADHD drugs.  Some will say when the child goes off the drug and behavior worsens, it proves the drugs work.  This is not true.  Just like drinking more alcohol to cure a hangover, it just means the body is used to having the drug.  Again, the drug controls the child’s behavior by making him calmer and without the drug, the fidgety inattentive behavior returns.  
It is time to avoid the psychiatric path and follow the lead of the French.  Psychiatric drugs with dangerous side effects are not the answer to behavior problems in children.  Every child is different and probably has a different set of circumstances and reasons that explain the behavior.  It would be smart to find out what those things are and remedy them.  Skip the bogus ADHD sales pitch and find out what’s really going on with your child.  Everyone will be happier and healthier as a result.

1 Comment

  1. An friendly comment from an anonymous student

    First of all, as a student majoring in psychology, I deeply appreciated CCHR’s mission to monitor practice and research in mental health field and to reveal the real picture to public. After taking a whole semester class on ADHD, I found this article touched on a lot of myths surrounded ADHD nowadays. Many of the arguments could be validated by evidence from peer-reviewed research articles, even though the author did not choose to incorporate them. However, the argument that “ADHD is only rampant in the U.S.” was evidently misleading.
    Because disease was conceptualized and classified differently in France and in the U.S, the diagnostic rate under different diagnostic criteria and treatment preference were different. However, research has shown that under the same diagnostic criteria, the DSM 5, the diagnostic rate was not significantly different in these two countries (Lecendreux et al, 2011). Therefore, it’s very likely that ADHD prevalence rate, number of cases of ADHD, in these two country were the same.
    Lecendreux, M., Konofal, E., & Faraone, S. V. (2011). Prevalence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Associated Features Among Children in France. Journal of Attention Disorders, 15(6), 516–524. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054710372491


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