Is ADHD Real?

Last blogging period I wrote a blog on the rise in ADD/ADHD diagnoses and wondered if the cause was rooted in our genetics or if it was more of a social matter. The answer was probably a little bit of both. Then I stumbled upon an article (thanks to another SC200 blogger) that states that the “father of ADHD” said: “ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease”. First off, I find it very interesting that these words were said only a few years ago, but got no attention. Why is that? My first thought was that the ADD/ADHD medicine market is recently booming. (1 in 10 male ten year olds take ADHD medication daily). There is a ton of money being made off of these medicines, and to me it feels like it’s very easy for a doctor to convince their patient that they have ADD/ADHD. So my question is: Is ADHD even a real disease?

In an article I found, studies were done to show that certain brain abnormalities resulting in a variation of the dopamine receptor gene might cause a “behavioral condition”. They studied the brains of 105 kids diagnosed with ADHD and 103 non-ADHD children. They found that a common variable in those diagnosed with ADHD was a variant in a specific dopamine receptor gene that leads to “thinner tissue in areas of the brain that control attention”. “‘This is a very important study as it adds increasing evidence that ADHD is a heritable disease with genetically determined neurobiological underpinnings and adds further evidence that this is a valid mental disorder, often requiring neurobiological interventions [such as] psychopharmacological treatment,’ said Dr. Jon A. Shaw, professor and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.” This particular study states that due to these findings, and various others that they have access to, help prove the validity of ADHD. Source 

I think the study makes sense, but also there isn’t much information on the specifics. This could be a case of the Texas sharpshooter problem, the scientists knew what they were looking for and may have called this variant gene proof, when in fact they might not have been looking at the thousands of other variables in the brain. Also, we don’t know if maybe decreased attention causes this variation. There are many questions that I have about the validity of this study.

To provide reason for why there would be any biased and how these drugs are verified, if the disease is in fact fictitious, an investigation on the American Psychiatric Association members and the pharmaceutical industry “found that “Of the 170 APA panel members 95 (56%) had one or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry. 100% of the members of the panels on ‘Mood Disorders’ and ‘Schizophrenia and Other Psychotic Disorders’ had financial ties to drug companies. The connections are especially strong in those diagnostic areas where drugs are the first line of treatment for mental disorders.” Source 

What this means is that while psychiatrists should be evaluating patients with their extensive knowledge of their practice, many members of the APA have big financial stakes within pharmaceutical companies, meaning that it’s more financially beneficial to them to tell their patients that they need ADHD medicine.

I’m not quite sure if I believe in ADHD, but then again that could mean I was a little biased in writing this blog post. I did take an article called “Brain Studies Show ADHD Is A Real Disease” and sort of put it down. But, to be fair ADHD is so blown out of proportion these days it’s hard for me to see what someone who really has trouble focusing looks like. I think this is a huge issue in America that definitely needs some concrete answers.

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