Stories about: ritalin abuse

Is ADHD on the rise? What the numbers really mean

by David Urion, MD, director of the Learning Disabilities/Behavioral Neurology Program at  Children’s Hospital Boston

A recent study showed that one out of every ten children in this country is currently diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

That’s an astonishing number.

The study, done by the National Institutes of Health, also showed that the number of children diagnosed with ADHD has been on the rise steadily since the mid-1980s, and that the number of children being treated with stimulant medication (such as Ritalin or Adderall) has been increasing over this same period.

We could discuss whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, and you could pick your favorite social evil to explain this apparent rise in ADHD. We could point to how sound bites have replaced intelligent discussion on TV.  Or blame MTV, or ESPN’s plays of the week. Or all the technology that we grownups can’t use, but our offspring can. (In my case, that gives me a large number of choices). We can complain that the vast amount of information with which we are bombarded every day has made us all incapable of just sitting and listening. We can all be cranky about something, and say that is the cause of this increase in ADHD.

But in doing that, we might miss some very important pieces of information in this report.

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Boosting brain power

As a recent 60 Minutes piece on Boosting Brain Power reveals, modern teenagers often feel pressure to do it all, and better than anyone else: make straight A’s, ace the SATs, excel at sports or music or art and still have time for fun and friends. Which is why healthy teens across the country are turning to stimulants like Adderal, Ritalin and other medications traditionally prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

In this article, Children’s Hospital Boston experts weigh in on the disturbing trend.

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