ADHD medicine overprescribed amongst communities

In the United States, 6.4 million children between the age of four and 17 are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 6.1 percent of all American children receive treatment for ADHD via medication. The two most common medications are Adderall and Ritalin. Indiana ranks fourth in ADHD diagnosis and third in rate of medication.

Having ADHD is not a cheap disorder. The average cost per person is $14,500. Every year Americans spend $42.5 billion on ADHD medication. Needless to say, the ADHD medication business is rather large.

The top two ADHD drugs, Adderall and Ritalin, are made by Shire Pharmaceuticals and Novartis respectively. With billions of dollars at stake, it is in the best interest of those two companies to have a large population of people with the disorder.

Similar to how private corporations running prisons leads to an exponential increase in prisoners, these private corporations, who operate for profits, need the help from the more public entity. In the case of prisons, the lobbyists for private prisons push for policy that will lead to the largest number of incarcerated people. In the case of ADHD, the public entity is the health care system. Representatives of the pharmaceutical companies pushed to expand the definition of ADHD and ADD.   

Quick hypothetical: A pharmaceutical company pays a group of scientists money to study the drugs effects. That company is the sole monetary provider of the money for this study. What is the likelihood of the scientists study finding the drug has little benefit.

The Northern Lights conducted a study of 100 students of various ages, genders, races and backgrounds. Students were asked, “Has anyone in your family, including you, been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.” 48 students answered yes.

Observations of the survey indicated that white males were most likely to answer “yes,” whereas African-American females were most likely to say “no,” which corresponds with national data.

Assuming that 48 percent represents the entirety of the school population, which is rounded to roughly 3,900 people, there are 1,872 people at this school with someone in their family with ADD or ADHD.

Cole Sweeney is a Junior at North Central. He was willing to discuss having ADHD and the medications he takes.

“I was first diagnosed when I was in first and second grade. My teacher noticed that I was having trouble paying attention during class. ADHD was big back then so she suggested I got tested and they diagnosed me,” Sweeney said.

ADHD diagnosis peaked in the mid to late 2000s, which would be when Sweeney was in first grade. Sweeney was also willing to discuss the specific kinds of medication he takes.

“Adderall was the main one, I’ve also been diagnosed capsules and patches, but mostly Adderall. Everyday twice a day,” Sweeney said.

Most ADHD drugs are what are considered stimulants. A stimulant is a drug that stimulates a part of the nervous system.

“I usually take it before school, or sports. Most weekends I don’t unless I have sports,” Sweeney said.

ADHD medication is used to keep children focused. This is why people feel “wired” when the take those drugs.

“When I’m not on it I am more talkative and energetic. Overall it is harder to focus. I could be writing a paper and then find myself watching YouTube videos about ice cream,” Sweeney said.

A common complaint about the effects of the ADHD drugs is that kid who are on it act significantly different than they do when not on it.

“When I’m on it I don’t feel like myself. However I feel like I can do a lot more when I am on it. I don’t feel like myself but I feel like my best self,” Sweeney said.

Recently, big pharmaceutical companies have been sued by class action lawsuits. Novartis, the makers of Ritalin, we sued for conspiring to profit off of the over-diagnosis of ADHD. Unfortunately all of those cases were either dismissed or withdrawn.

It is hard to say whether or not the big pharmaceutical companies will ever face legal action for their shady ways.  

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