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ADHD Drugs & Big Business: Turning Children into Cash Cows, but at What Cost?

June 18th, 2014 05:00:00 am

ADHD Drugs & Big Business: Turning Children into Cash Cows, but at What Cost?

The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major A.D.H.D. drug — stimulants like Adderall, Concerta, Focalin and Vyvanse, and nonstimulants like Intuniv and Strattera — for false and misleading advertising since 2000, some multiple times.

Companies even try to speak to youngsters directly. Shire — the longtime market leader, with several A.D.H.D. medications including Adderall — recently subsidized 50,000 copies of a comic book that tries to demystify the disorder and uses superheroes to tell children, “Medicines may make it easier to pay attention and control your behavior!”

According to IMS Health the Sales of prescription stimulants have more than quintupled since 2002. From 2 billion to over 9 billion.

- Alan Schwarz, "The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder"

The New York Times, 2013



I read this article in The New York Times and became very sad, very angry, and even resigned. When my book Managing the Gift: Alternative Approaches for Attention Deficit Disorder (Amazon & Kindle) came out in 2000, I mentioned that from 1995-2000 there had been a 400% increase in ADD prescriptions given to 2-4 year olds, even though it was recommended that children under eight should not be medicated. I thought it was madness back then. Now, the problem is even worse. Through lobbyist dollars, the Medicaid system, and clever marketing, the age was dropped from eight to four, and over 10,000 toddlers are now taking these drugs.


We know there are side effects. We know we don't know—can't know—how bad they are, because not enough time has passed to see the long term impacts. Each time we turn around, there's another side effect added to the label. The FDA put a black box warning label (indicating possibility of death or permanent disability) on the medications, the American Academy of Pediatrics scoffed and told members to ignore it.


How long will we let a minority abuse their power and use our kids as their private cash cows? How long will we let them take advantage of the less educated and less well off? Why are we allowing this manipulation of our children—through comic books and commercials that tell them being medicated is not only okay, but good for them. Convincing kids that drugs are okay, that drugging them is an acceptable way to make them “fit in” rather than broaden the world to fit them, is a sure-fire way to see that they go from one kind of drug to another. Why are people shocked to hear that ADHD adults may be more likely to have issues with substance abuse? When someone is taught as a child that they should use medications and drugs to fit in, they're going to adhere to that advice when they're adults. It's hard to break out of a pattern of conditioning that's as heavy handed as that.


ADHD drugs are meant to make a parent or teacher's job easier. The drugs that could crop up later in your child's life won't make anyone's life easier. If we won't stand up for our children now, then what will we stand up for?



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