Studies Claim That One Million Children Misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Several studies this month in the Journal of Health Economics are looking at ADHD. Separate studies by researchers at North Carolina State University, Notre Dame, the University of Minnesota, and Michigan State University all arrive at similar conclusions about ADHD.

For those unfamiliar with ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it is one of the most common neurobehavioral  disorders of childhood. Children with ADHD typically have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behavior, and/ or are overly active. The causative and risk factors for ADHD are unknown, but current research has shown that genetics plays an important role. According to CDC data and statistics: As of 2006, there are 4.5 million 5 to 17-year-old children diagnosed with ADHD. Diagnosis of ADHD increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006. Prevalence also varies substantially by state; for example, Colorado with 5% vs. 11.1% in Alabama.

Despite steadily increasing rates of ADHD diagnosis and treatment, many believe that it is still under-diagnosed. On the other hand, the research above is arguing that it is overly and/or misdiagnosed. According to the study by Todd Elder of Michigan State University, there’s almost 1 million U.S. children that are possibly misdiagnosed with ADHD. His research relies heavily on the age and maturity level of each individual child.

Elder says that many of these children are being diagnosed or labeled with ADHD because they are the youngest and most immature child in their kindergarten class. Just as there is a big difference between a newborn and a one-year-old, there is a big difference in a five year old vs. a six year old. There isn’t a neurological marker for ADHD. In other words, ADHD can not be definitively diagnosed with a blood test or MRI. Elder says that it is the subjective nature of the diagnosis process that  unveils the smoking gun of his study- “ADHD diagnoses depend on a child’s age relative to classmates and the teacher’s perceptions of whether the child has symptoms.” It could just be that the 5-year-old not sitting still, being inattentive, etc.. is doing so because he is still 5-years-old and the majority of his classmates are 6-years-old.

One way that Elder justifies his research is the prevalence of medication rates among different groups of children. He examined 12,000 children for the difference in ADHD diagnosis and medication rates between the youngest and oldest of individual grades. The youngest of the kindergarteners were 60% more likely to have a diagnosis of ADHD. By the time that group reached the fifth to eight grade, the younger of each class was more than twice as likely to be prescribed behavior modifying stimulant drugs like Ritalin.

The potential misdiagnosis is not only troubling because it wastes an estimated $300-500 million dollars a year on unnecessary medication, but the long-term effects of these treatments on the child’s health are unknown.  It could also leave a child with an unwarranted  “label” that could follow them for life. 

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  1. Great Share.

  2. Nice share here. I have a couple of friends that have it and it can be challenging sometimes.


  3. My mom and dad had a great cure for ADD…And it never failed. LOL

  4. Hmm…gr8 share.

  5. great share

  6. I hadn’t heard of this before. Thanks for bringing it up.

  7. Great article! Years ago, when I had not heard much about this, a family member had been diagnosed with this. Now I hear this is diagnosed more and more. I have often wondered about the complications of giving ADHD meds. to someone who has been misdiagnosed does not need them. It only stands to reason though that if a med is not needed but taken anyway there is going to be some long term results.

  8. Sometimes diet is a factor; tartrazine & sugar don’t help children concentrate. Sometimes children are trying to compensate for parental neglect.

  9. This adhd desorder thing is getting to be an excuse for those parents who never want to look at themselven as the bron of their children’s problems…my doughter mother of a 5 years old lovely intelligent boy wants absolutely think that her child has adhd , trying to make her understand that her hysterical way of acting and confronting her child with adult’s problems is putting the little boy’s mind under great stress,…is the reason why the boy is getting rebellious….she as too many other parents are not honest with themselven…those kind of parents should buy a pop enstead to make real children.A german doctor who has been the first in europe to be entusiatical about ritalin prescriptions to children has now totally changed idea about it…there is not adhad but only ignorant lazy parents he says.

  10. ADHD is not just a questionable a medical condition, it is the easiest method to commit Medicaid fraud in child welfare.a

    Major pharmaceutical firms manipulate studies and policies to drug children for profit.

    Learn more about Medicaid fraud in child welfare:

    Beverly Tran
    An Original Source

  11. good share

  12. Excellent article!

  13. Excellent work my friend:))

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