In an earlier post, I made some observations about what I called "fads in mental diagnoses," and the epidemic of over-diagnoses of certain conditions. New evidence has now been published, which may put this phenomenon in a new light.
There has been a lot of public agonizing lately about the steep rise in diagnoses of ADHD over the last two decades. There is growing, and justifiable, worry that a lot of kids are being put on stimulant medications who don’t need them.
What there hasn’t been is a plausible theory about what’s driving this explosion of diagnoses — 40 percent over the last decade and more than 50 percent over 25 years. The CDC now estimates that 12 percent of school age kids, and as many as 20 percent of teenage boys have been diagnosed with ADHD.
Blame has been directed at parents, for being so poor at discipline that they reach for a pill to make unruly kids settle down. Teachers are blamed for being so inept at maintaining order that they want students medicated into submission. Psychiatrists are blamed for being the pawns of drug companies peddling ADHD meds. But blaming doesn’t explain it. ...
Now comes a book that, finally, offers a data-based analysis that could begin to account for an increase on this scale. “The ADHD Explosion,“ by Stephen Hinshaw and Richard Scheffler, considers all kinds of factors that may contribute to the surge, from diagnosis by undertrained and harried pediatricians to pharmaceutical advertising. But the eye-opening insight from Hinshaw, a clinical psychologist, and Schleffler, a health economist, who are colleagues at University of California, Berkeley, is the correlation between educational policies and the prevalence of ADHD diagnoses.
Using Centers for Disease Control surveys, Hinshaw and Sheffler found that when rates of ADHD diagnoses are broken down by state, it turns out that there are dramatic discrepancies. ...
What the team found was that high rates of ADHD diagnoses correlated closely with state laws that penalize schools when students fail. Nationally, this approach to education was enacted into law in 2001 with No Child Left Behind, which makes funding contingent on the number of students who pass standardized tests.
The truth about ADHD: Over-diagnosis linked to cause championed by Michelle Rhee
Many worthy criticisms of "No Child Left Behind" have been provided since 2001, but this newly published data may finally help to successfully euthanize the inane law. Why would the Federal Government throw more money at schools which need it less in the first place? It seems counterintuitive.