Considering the fact that one in 10 boys in North America takes ADHD medication every day, parents should examine whether or not Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder actually exists as a specific disorder. If, to the contrary, ADHD is merely a broad term that describes various unrelated symptoms, should it then deserve a Medicare code?
The troubled history behind this behaviour category is touched upon in the horror movie “The Exorcist”. In chapter 20 of the DVD version, a Stanford University physician is shown performing a bizarre medical procedure on the lead character, Reagan. A pneumoencephalogram is an X-ray performed after withdrawing cerebrospinal fluid from around the brain and replacing it with air, oxygen or helium. One side effect of this test is extreme headache.
In 1937, pediatrician Charles Bradley administered benzedrine sulphate, an amphetamine marketed by Smith, Kline and French, to children who received this test to help them cope with the resulting headaches.
“Bradley noticed an unexpected effect upon the behaviour of children: improved school performance, social interactions and emotional responses.” (The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, “Bradley’s Benzedrine Studies on Children with Behavioural Disorders”
Today, the amphetamines prescribed for children are Adderall, Vyvanse, Dexedrine and other amphetamine salts. Methylphenidates, antidepressants, antipsychotics and anticonvulsants are also prescribed in some cases, sometimes in combination.
Dr. Bradley’s published studies lay dormant for 25 years until the pharmaceutical industry seized on the opportunity to exploit the conceptualization of misbehavior. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the child was shaped to conform to the new industrial economy. During youth, the individual had to learn restraint, obedience and discipline to be socially fit for life as an adult. Those who failed to accept the norms were often classified as suffering from a criminal disorder.
The findings presented at a 1967 Puerto Rico forum of psychologists were published as “Psychotropic Drugs in the Year 2000 – Use by Normal Humans”. This book, sponsored by a drug company Wallace Laboratories, includes children in the chapter on criminals. Its title is The Use of Psychotropic Drugs with Criminals by Oscar Resnick with the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology at Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.
His catalogue of criminal behaviour includes:
“The following is a very partial list of descriptions in the literature of emotionally disturbed children and juvenile delinquents:
1. periodically uncontrolled behaviour
2. bizarre mannerisms and explosive violence
3. hyperactive, restless, unpredictable, destructive
4. episodic and violent outbursts of impulsive behaviour
5. paroxysmal, unbridled aggression, rages and temper tantrums
6. hostility, hypercritical attitudes, pathological lying, feeling of being pushed around, irritability, lack of control and pronounced nonconformity
7. hyperreactivity, temper tantrums, fighting, lying, truancy, biting, cruelty to animals, homicidal and suicidal assaults.”
These elements of undesirable behavior were to eventually be identified as the “symptoms” of ADHD. Present-day social institutions continue to accept these 19th and 20th century ideas about “criminal” child behavior. A century of propaganda, misinformation and consumerism have allowed the fiction of ADHD to be firmly embedded in the economy with scientific and medical infrastructure on a massive scale..
Starting with the very first neuroscientist, who was a hashish addict in 19th century Paris, nearly every early book on this subject was sponsored by a drug company. The influence of the pharmaceutical industry remains pervasive in medical policy through lobbying government.
Social reality, however, is evolving as parents and children gain direct access via the Internet on the negative effects of drugs on youths who commit horrific crimes or on celebrities in rehab. We live in the 21st century. We no longer need a child’s behaviour modeled from the 19th century. We no longer need the amphetamines, methylphenidates, antipsychotics and antidepressants that have created the social disaster that grips our society.