"The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today's Push for Performance"

Apr 3, 2014

On this edition of ST, we speak with Dr. Stephen P. Hinshaw, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Vice-Chair for Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Hinshaw is also the editor of "Psychological Bulletin" --- and the co-author of a new book, "The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance," which he discusses with us today. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (or, more commonly, ADHD) is one of the most controversial and misunderstood medical conditions in existence. Major questions surround this disorder, such as: Why are one in nine children and adolescents in the US now diagnosed with ADHD, with projected rates still rising? Why are nearly 70% of those diagnosed with ADHD prescribed medication? And more generally, what's driving the current "ADHD explosion" --- is it parents, doctors, schools, our healthcare system, our very culture, and/or Big Pharma? Dr. Hinshaw talks about these queries with us, while also pointing out that there's a simultaneous over-diagnosis and under-diagnosis of ADHD now happening in American society. And further, as was noted of "The ADHD Explosion" in Publishers Weekly: "[The book's co-authors] explore the history of ADHD and its 'mammoth cost level' --- over $100 billion a year --- as well as its biology and genetics, drug and behavioral treatment, the myth that ADHD is a problem of fidgety suburban boys, and the stark school and policy differences from state to state, illustrating the need for 'careful evaluation and diagnosis, responsive treatment, use of multi-modal interventions, and adequate monitoring of treatments.' The stories of children and adults suffering with the disorder, however, make the best case for a nation’s change in attitude and behavior. 'Hard numbers are difficult to come by,' the authors note, 'but tens if not hundreds of thousands of kids' exist in a netherworld of chronic problems associated with ADHD. This powerful, fact-packed survey is complex, thought-provoking, and urgent."