Nearly 1 million Children Potentially Misdiagnosed with ADHD in the USA

Posted on August 27, 2010  Comments (13)

Nearly 1 million children in the United States are potentially misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder simply because they are the youngest – and most immature – in their kindergarten class, according to new research by , Todd Elder, a Michigan State University economist.

These children are significantly more likely than their older classmates to be prescribed behavior-modifying stimulants such as Ritalin, said Todd Elder, whose study will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Health Economics (closed science, unfortunately). Michigan State should stop funding closed journals with free content – other schools have decided to put science first, before supporting a few outdated business models of select journals.

Such inappropriate treatment is particularly worrisome because of the unknown impacts of long-term stimulant use on children’s health, Elder said. It also wastes an estimated $320 million-$500 million a year on unnecessary medication – some $80 million-$90 million of it paid by Medicaid, he said.

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder for kids in the United States, with at least 4.5 million diagnoses among children under age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The youngest kindergartners were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children in the same grade. Similarly, when that group of classmates reached the fifth and eighth grades, the youngest were more than twice as likely to be prescribed stimulants.

Overall, the study found that about 20 percent – or 900,000 – of the 4.5 million children currently identified as having ADHD likely have been misdiagnosed.

Related: Lifestyle Drugs and RiskLong Term ADHD Drug Benefits QuestionedMerck and Elsevier Publish Phony Peer-Review Journal

13 Responses to “Nearly 1 million Children Potentially Misdiagnosed with ADHD in the USA”

  1. Olga Lopez
    August 28th, 2010 @ 9:25 pm

    Geeze guess there is some truth to the upcoming generation being the “Ritalin” generation. Sounds like they really need to re-evaluate the criteria for diagnosing ADHD.

  2. Marl
    August 30th, 2010 @ 9:59 am

    Thank you for posting the article oh ADHD!
    My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in kindergarten. The first thing they wanted to do was put her on drugs. We tried it for a week or so and it turned my happy intelligent girl into a doped out zombie. No thank you.

    She is in 8th grade now and doing very well and planning to go to college already.

    All without the heavy drugs that they wanted to stick her on.

  3. Victoria
    September 2nd, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

    That’s a lot of wasted money and misdirection. I feel bad for the parents who were dealt with such news.

  4. Rajinder
    September 3rd, 2010 @ 4:47 am

    I run Rocketheads an online educational toys store in the UK. I set this up after looking into the research that shows that children particularly kinaesthetic learners and boys are diagnosed as ADHD just because it is convenient. When you teach 30 kids (under 11 yrs) anyone that does not sit quietly is a problem and a hassle. This is why so many schools call this ADHD it makes life easier, I say that this normally just being a kid. Understandably parents take the advice of the professionals. My advice is do not blindly accept any diagnosis while the child is under 8, and question any professionals about avoiding drugs. A salient fact is that 70% of school children who are on Ritalin are boys! I would also advise that if you think your child has ADHD try playing non computer learning games and puzzles. I talk about some recommended products on my blog.
    So Marl it is really great that you questioned the advice of so called “professionals” – good on you.

  5. Brian
    September 8th, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    I heard a comedian one time make an excellent point. You could take these same kids that have been diagnosed with “adhd”, stick them in front of an xbox, and their attention wont be broken for hours. The same could be said about my son. He is only 3, wild and crazy, running around all the time, bouncing off the walls. We have a hard time getting him to focus on a lot of things, but if I hand him my ipod touch, he will play with that thing until the battery goes dead, usually an hour or two. I personally think this generation is just fascinated with technology from the word go, and we just need to find a way to use that to our advantage, with teaching and anything else.

  6. Anonymous
    September 11th, 2010 @ 1:32 am

    It’s disturbing to think that so many children may’ve been misdiagnosed with ADHD for behavior that 20+ years ago might’ve been considered merely “kids being kids”. I guess in the U.S. at least, with more parents joining the work force, it’s probably easier to essentially sedate kids with ritalin and adderall and whatever other ADHD meds rather than actively let them work out their energy. I’m sure, too, the popularity and convenience of fast foods, particularly those with fast carbs that the body quickly transforms into glucose in the body, incites more hyperactivity and attention deficit in kids than ever before.

  7. Anonymous
    September 14th, 2010 @ 6:07 pm

    I’m in the process of becoming and educator and after observing classrooms and interacting with children as well as being made aware of the expectations parents place on teachers as well as the state requirements we have to meet, it is extremely stressful with children who just don’t adapt to the common school environment, but it is also very sad to have this kids drugged to solve a problem that comes from our shortcomings in the educational environment, lack of progress, recognition of multiple types of intelligences and learning styles, as well as the growing selfishness and busy schedules of overworked parents.
    Kids could “just be kids” before because we had the time and dedication to be there with them and enjoy their growing process. Now it’s just one more hassle.

  8. Jannie Claire
    October 12th, 2010 @ 11:54 am

    Why???Are there no proper diagnoses for those children? It’s a matter of life and death misdiagnosing children with ADHD? That’s being unfair to those little angels!!!

  9. Anonymous
    March 3rd, 2011 @ 1:47 am

    My eldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD when she was in 5th grade. She took a drug, Concerta for 5 years. Now she’s in college & she doesn’t take it anymore. It’s so disheartening to learn that there are medical practitioners who seems to misdiagnosed their patients. Or are they just finding an easy way out to dispense these drugs?

  10. Diet May Help ADHD Kids More Than Drugs » Curious Cat Science Blog
    March 13th, 2011 @ 12:29 am

    “According to Pelsser, 64 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD are actually experiencing a hypersensitivity to food. Researchers determined that by starting kids on a very elaborate diet, then restricting it over a few weeks’ time…”

  11. Matthew White
    June 25th, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

    I think misdiagnosis of ADHD is possible. My son was diagnosed with ADHD and I don’t think he has it, but his mother does (ex-wife). He was prescribed several different drugs and none of them seemed to help with his schoolwork. I will definitely be reading more about this.

  12. Tom Bargeron
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

    I know that there is tendency for over active kids especially boys to be diagnosed as having ADHD; however, I assure you that a goodly number are truly ADHD. It is a shame when the parents of these kids are dismissive or in denial of this and think “they will grow out of it”. It is never a good thing to over medicate but sometimes medication is necessary. These children are in desperate need of some therapy and maybe even, yes medication. All ADHD children cannot be “cured ” by diet.

  13. curiouscat
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

    I agree that ADHD medication is warranted in some cases. My guess is that is much much lower than 50% of the kids being told to take it now.

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