Addressing the Big Pharma myth . . .

This morning I had my first real naysayer on one of my event posts. All she said was that ADHD was a myth put forth by big pharma to sell drugs. No evidence, nothing to back it up, just threw it out there like it was a fact. Thankfully I happened to see the notification come across and was able to delete it in less than 60 seconds. I’m not going to debate this. Truthfully, it pissed me off!  I don’t want to let her discourage someone from coming to an event; one where they will learn that they are not alone in their struggles.

Before we get to the science, let me explain why that argument makes me so angry. Let’s just say, hypothetically, that this person is correct and that ADHD doesn’t actually exist. If that is the case, this person thinks then I am extremely irresponsible. She thinks I COULD remember things like school events, if only I cared enough to do so. She thinks I COULD be organized with any number of neuro-typical systems, if only I cared enough to do so. She thinks I COULD remember to call my Dad on Father’s Day, if only I cared enough to do so. See where I’m going with this?

Now, I don’t think that my differently wired brain excuses me from any of that. It DOES mean that I have to take extraordinary measures to make some things happen, measures that a neuro-typical brain just doesn’t need.

So – If you will indulge me – here’s a little history.

But first – A poem written by a German Psychologist –

But fidgety Phil,

He won’t sit still;

He wriggles,

And giggles,

And then, I declare

Swings backwards and forwards

And tilts up his chair.

When do you think that was written?


In 1902 Dr. George F. Still in London provided the first published work with his observations of “an abnormal defect of moral control.” His observation of schoolboys were not necessarily the “bad” boys, but boys who had trouble paying attention and impulsivity stumbled into trouble. Even though Dr. Still used the horrible name “defect of moral control” he saw it as medical diagnosis.

In 1933, 2 researchers described “organic drivenness, a brain stem syndrome and an experience” the symptoms included difficulty or inability to engage in quiet activities, clumsiness, and impulsiveness. The same symptoms have appeared in other medical research papers under different names at about the same time.

In 1937 – Dr. Charles Bradley began treating kids with headaches with a stimulant medication. Benzedrine didn’t help the headaches, as it turns out, but teachers noticed immense improvements in behavior and schoolwork. It was pronounced enough that they started calling them “arithmetic pills.”

1959 – Methylphenidate (Ritalin) was introduced to treat something that at that time was being called a “hyperkinetic disorder of childhood.”

In 1980 the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders added ADHD and ADD. At the time, they were thought of as different disorders. That was the same year that they added Attention Deficit Disorder, residual type. What we now call Adult ADHD.

Studies on adults finally began in the ‘80s, but Adult ADHD was not truly recognized until Dr. Edward Hallowell’s Driven to Distraction was published in 1995.

It is important to know that REAL science defines ADHD as a  REAL disorder. In fact, some of the foremost scientific-based organizations in the world agree that ADHD not only exists, but can have devastating consequences when not properly identified, diagnosed and treated.

Research shows that ADHD has a very strong neurobiological basis. We know that heredity is the biggest risk factor for developing ADHD. Research does NOT support the idea that ADHD is caused by too much sugar, watching too much TV, or bad parenting.

A Pet Scan ullustrating difference between a brain with ADHD and one without. PHOTO: NEUROSCIENCENEWS

The national Institute of Mental Health did a 10 year study using function imaging and found that the brains of children and adolescents with ADHD are 3-4% smaller than those of children without ADHD, and that medication treatment was not the cause of the discrepancy. Now, that 3-4% might not mean much cognitively, but it does demonstrate that something is different about the ADHD brain.

I have added a list of statements from organizations that use rigorous scientific standards below. (With thanks to Please feel free to validate them for yourself, you SHOULD do your own research. Believing everything someone tells you is dangerous. It can lead you to false conclusions….. False conclusions like “ADHD is not a thing.”

Fact: ADHD is recognized by EVERY major medical, psychiatric, psychological, and education association or organization. It is also listed as a disorder or disability by all branches of the US government.

I’ll try not to let months go by before the next blog post!

Until then, take care of yourself. Really.


American Medical Association (AMA)

Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents, April 1998

Citation: Journal of the American Medical Association 279(14): 1100-1107, 1998

ADHD “is a commonly seen neuropsychiatric syndrome that has been extensively studied over the past four decades . . . It should be noted that debate over ADHD within the research and medical communities has been mild and mostly concerned with nuances in the diagnosis and treatment paradigms. By contrast, highly inflammatory public relations campaigns and pitched legal battles have been waged (particularly by groups such as the Church of Scientology) that seek to label the whole idea of ADHD as an illness a “myth” . . . It is thus most important to separate legitimate concerns raised by scientific papers from abstract, distorted, or mendacious information from other sources.”

Surgeon General of the United States

Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, December 1999

Full Text

Chapter Three (Children and Mental Health), Section Four is devoted entirely to the science of ADHD. “ADHD, which is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood, occurs in 3 to 5 percent of school-age children . . . The exact etiology of ADHD is unknown, although neurotransmitter deficits, genetics, and perinatal complications have been implicated . . . The dopamine hypothesis has thus driven much of the recent research into the causes of ADHD.”

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Institute of Mental Health Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD, December 1999

Citation: Archives of General Psychiatry 56(12): 1073-86, 1999

This landmark study is “the first major clinical trial to look at childhood mental illness and the largest NIMH clinical trial to date.”

Diagnosis and Treatment of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:

Consensus Development Conference Statement, November 1998

Citation: NIH Consensus Statement 16(2): 1-37, 1998

Full Text

ADHD “is a commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood that represents a costly major public health problem . . .”

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Rev. 2013

“Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity).”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Attention Deficit Disorder and Learning Disability: United States, 1997-98, May 2002

Citation: Vital Health Statistics 10(206), 2002

Full Text

This report demonstrates “that ADD and LD [learning disabilities] are among the most common chronic conditions affecting school-aged children in the United States.”

2002 International Consensus Statement on ADHD

Citation: Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review 5(2): 89-111, 2002

Roughly 100 scientists from the international community created the consensus statement as a reference on the status of the scientific findings concerning this disorder. “As a matter of science, the notion that ADHD does not exist is simply wrong. All of the major medical associations and government health agencies recognize ADHD as a genuine disorder because the scientific evidence indicating it is so overwhelming.”

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

Clinical Practice Guideline: Treatment of the School-Aged Child with

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, October 2001

Citation: Pediatrics 108(4): 1033-44, 2001

This guideline “is based on an extensive review of the medical, psychological, and educational literature” and “emphasizes consideration of ADHD as a chronic condition.”

Clinical Practice Guideline: Diagnosis and Evaluation of the Child with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, May 2000

Citation: Pediatrics 105 (5): 1158-70, 2000

“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurobehavioral disorder of childhood.”

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)

Practice Parameters for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

In Press, 2007

“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders of childhood and adolescence.”

Practice Parameter for the Use of Stimulant Medications in the Treatment of Children, Adolescents, and Adults, June 2001

Citation: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 41(2 Suppl): 26S-49S, 2002

“Long thought of as a childhood disorder, ADHD is now known to persist into adolescence and adulthood.”

Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

Utilization and Costs of Medical Care for Children and Adolescents with and without Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, January 2001

Citation: Journal of the American Medical Association 285(1): 60-6, 2001

“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a relatively common behavioral disorder of childhood, with important consequences for affected individuals, their families, and society.”

How Common Is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?, March 2002

Citation: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 156(3): 209-10, 2002


According to Mayo researchers, this study is the largest population-based study of the occurrence of ADHD to date and “it indicates that this disorder is commonly seen in children between the ages 5 and 19 years.”

Other Web Sites:

  • CDC and ADHD Research
    Information on CDC’s current research efforts, activities, and research agenda.
  • Participating in Research (ClinicalTrials.Gov) provides regularly updated information about federally and privately supported clinical research in human volunteers. gives you information about a trial’s purpose, who may participate, locations, and phone numbers for more details. Before searching, you may want to learn more about clinical trials.
  • NIMH Clinical Trials on ADHD
    These NIMH-funded studies are currently recruiting study participants.