Drugs Being Used to Diagnose ADD and ADHD

A commentary appearing in Family Practice News, November 1, 1995, points out that physicians are inappropriately using Ritalin to diagnose ADHD. Patients are given a stimulant and, if they respond to it, it is assumed that they had ADHD. The author points out that people who do not have ADD or ADHD will often have improved concentration and attention when given a stimulant. Also, many with ADD or ADHD (between 20% and 30%) will not respond to Ritalin. The study goes on to say that as many as 40% of the pediatricians were giving Ritalin as a way of diagnosing ADD and ADHD, according to a study by Dr. Copeland of Foundation Health in Sacramento, California.  One survey found as many as 70% of the doctors guilty of this practice.

Poor concentration may be due to learning disabilities. Ritalin will do nothing for learning disabilities. If a child is bipolar, a stimulant will make them worse. Poor concentration can be from anemia, thyroid problems or clinical depression, but doctors are not taking the time to diagnose these problems. Instead they are relying on a subjective observation of symptoms. These doctors are not taking the time to diagnose properly.

Is it any wonder that we are using more of these drugs? IMS America, a marketing research firm in Plymouth Meeting, PA., reported that the number of prescriptions written for the 3 main stimulant drugs used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Cylert tripled from 1990 to 1994. Doctors need to be doing a proper workup and not use the drugs to diagnose the problem.

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