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A US doctor has spoken out against the ADHD diagnosis, claiming it has become a marketing strategy by pharmaceutical companies rather than a genuine medical diagnosis.

US child neurologist Fred Baughman says 5.4 million American children have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, with two-thirds of those taking psychiatric drugs – the sales of which reached $1.2 billion dollars in 2010.

Dr Baughman says the way in which psychiatric illnesses are looked at is fundamentally flawed, as they cannot be ultimately proven.

“There are a lot of chemical diseases – diabetes being the best known,” Dr Baughman says. “There are about a hundred examples of inborn errors of metabolism or body chemistry. These can all be tested for, they’ve all been proven, and they exist in the scientific literature – whereas there is not a single psychiatric diagnosis that exists in scientific literature of the world.”

Dr Baughman alleges that pharmaceutical companies have invented the diseases for which their drugs are the cure.

“Ritalin has passed $1 billion a year in sales. Ritalin is no longer the top ADHD drug in the U.S. I think Adderall, which is made up of amphetamines, passed Ritalin a few years ago in market share … The rate of diagnosing ADHD has been going up by a million a year in the U.S. This is a market strategy.”

Dr Baughman says the diagnostic criteria of ADHD deliberately include the most bothersome aspects of a child’s activity to appeal to parents.

“They talk out of turn, they don’t sit still, they wiggle around too much in their seats, they are impulsive, disorderly, and so on. It’s a bunch of behaviours that are seen in just about every child at some stage of their life. This is by design; they have taken kind of irritating, bothersome, disruptive behaviours in children and have kind of cobbled them together and called it a disease.”

Dr Baughman says packaging up this behaviour as a disease is more palatable to time-poor parents than telling them to spend more time with their children.

“They get a lot of parents to buy it because a lot of parents are now busy with their job in the workforce and there’s no longer a full-time parent in the home, and so, ‘Here’s why Johnny or Janey is such an irritant to me, they’ve got ADHD.’ It takes the pressure entirely off the parent for not being a presence and for not being there full-time to mould the behaviour of the child.”

May 23, 2011 by JJ Pursell

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