Brain News You Can Use (June 2013)

By Gail Sanders Durgin, Ph.D., BCN-Fellow, QEEGT

A.D.H.D. Seen in 11% of U.S. Children as Diagnoses Rise

The rates of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder have risen 53% over the last ten years, reports the New York Times. The rapid rise in the medical diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder shows that almost 1 out of 5 high school males and 11 percent of all school age children in the United States are currently receiving this diagnosis, according to new information for the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist at the Yale School of Medicine, states "Those are astronomical numbers, I'm floored." He also explains, "Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy."

Most of the children with a current diagnosis of A.D.H.D. are prescribed a stimulant like Adderall or Ritalin. For children who actually have A.D.H.D., these drugs can help reduce their symptoms; however, these drugs can also lead to anxiety, addiction and in some cases psychosis. Because of the changes the American Psychiatric Association plans to make in the definition of A.D.H.D., more children and adults will be diagnosed and treated.

There is disagreement among physicians about the rising rates. Some doctors feel the disorder is just being better recognized and view any complaints of inattention as A.D.H.D., but other doctors see the pharmaceutical advertising as one reason that parents are pushing doctors for medication when their children's behavior is troublesome or grades are slipping. The pamphlet from one manufacturer shows a parent saying, "I want to do all I can to help him succeed" while gazing at her son. Dr. Jerome Groopman from Harvard Medical School said, "There's a tremendous push where if the kid's behavior is thought to be quote-unquote abnormal – if they're not sitting quietly at their desk – that's pathological, instead of just childhood."

The stimulant medications can help children with severe A.D.H.D, which includes concentration and impulse control problems, lead more normal lives but they are also being used by children with very mild symptoms to increase focus and drive as a way to better grades without consideration of the medication's health risks. Dr. James Swanson, a primary A.D.H.D. researcher from Florida International University states, " If we start treating children who do not have the disorder with stimulants, a certain percentage are going to have problems that are predictable – some of them are going to end up with abuse and dependence. And with all those pills around, how much of that actually goes to friends? Some studies have said it's about 30 percent."

Dr. Ned Hallowell, a child and adult psychiatrist and book author, recently stated that he had told parents that stimulants were "safer than aspirin." He now regrets that position and will no longer say that. While he does believe some children with this condition are not being recognized, the high rates of new diagnosis indicate that the diagnosis is being given too easily. He states, "I think now's the time to call attention to the dangers that can be associated with making the diagnosis in a slipshod fashion." He continues, "That we have kids out there getting these drugs to use them as mental steroids – that's dangerous, and I hate to think I have a hand in creating that problem."

Note from Dr. Durgin: Neurofeedback has been successfully used to treat A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. for over fifty years. It been shown to be effective in numerous studies conducted in many counties around the world. In many controlled studies, Neurofeedback treatment has shown significant improvements in both parent and teacher-rated core symptoms of ADHD compared to control group conditions and demonstrate that the gains from neurofeedback therapy generalize to both home and school. The independent evidence-based ranking completed for the American Academy of Pediatrics gave Level 1, HIGHEST SUPPORT rankings for Neurofeedback. For more information call Dr. Durgin at 336-540-1972.


Gail Sanders Durgin, Ph.D. has been providing neurofeedback and biofeedback at Neurofeedback Associates Inc since 2000. She previously worked in mental health and developmental disabilities services for 18 years. Dr. Durgin offers the most advanced treatment services in the field in order to offer individualized client centered solutions to improve brain and life performance.

Published in Natural Triad, June, 2013


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