According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over the period of 5 years between 1997 and 2002, the number of children between the age of 3 to 17, diagnosed with ADHD went from 3.3 million to 4.4 million.
In direct correlation, the number of children prescribed ADHD drugs also rose steadily. In fact, spending on these types of medications for children is now higher than spending on antibiotics and asthma drugs. In February 2006, the FDA revealed that between 1999 and 2003, seventy-eight million prescriptions for ADHD drugs were written for children between the ages of 1 to 18. Terry Davis, a member of an FDA advisory committee, has said prescriptions for ADHD drugs filled annually have a value of $3.1 billion.
According to Dr Peter Breggin, author of "Talking Back To Ritalin, "parents and teachers and even doctors have been badly misled by drug company marketing practices, " he warns. "Drug companies have targeted children as a big market likely to boost profits and children are suffering as a result."
What critics say is most alarming, is the fact that very young children are being placed on drugs. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2000 provides some insight into this trend. The study found that fifty-seven percent of 223 Michigan Medicaid patients younger than 4, diagnosed with ADHD, received at least one psychotropic drug during a 15-month period in 1995 to 1996.
Additionally, the study found that in the Medicaid population in Midwestern states, there was a 3-fold increase in the prescribing of stimulant drugs between 1991 and 1995 for children between the age of 2 and four.
More recent statistics show a 369% increase in spending on ADHD drugs for children under five. From 2000 to 2003, the rise in the use of attention deficit drugs by children under 5 contributed to an overall 23% increase for all children, according to an analysis by the nation's largest prescription benefit manager, Medco Health Solutions.
The debate over the drugging of children in this country has been raging on for years. Schools have been accused of promoting the use of drugs to control normal but active children. At a September 26, 2002, Reform Committee hearing on the "Overmedication of Hyperactive Children, " Chairman, Rep Dan Burton (R-IN), asked pediatrician, Dr Mary Ann Block, "what have you found that the schools do specifically to encourage the use of medications for attention and behavior?"
Dr Block said, "parents that come to me report consistently that the teachers and the principals and even the school nurses pressure them to go to a physician and get their child labeled and drugged."
"Some schools," she said, "are giving lectures to parents, inviting parents to come hear talks about diagnosing and drugging their children for ADHD."
Congressman Burton pointed out what he considered to be inadequate and unscientific methods of diagnosing ADHD:
"When you take your child to a doctor, instead of blood tests and a thorough medical evaluation, you have a conversation with a doctor about the school's checklist. And you leave a few minutes later with a prescription for your young child for a psychotropic drug."
"Did the doctor test your child for a thyroid disorder? Did your doctor test your child for a heavy metal toxicity? Did you doctor talk to you about your child's allergies?
"Did your doctor even mention nutrition or possible food sensitivity? Did your doctor ask if your child's IQ had been tested and if he was gifted? Probably not," he said.
Sandra Lucas testifies at FDA advisory committee hearings on behalf of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a psychiatric watchdog group. She produced a copy of a January 20, 2005, pamphlet used at a training seminar for teachers composed by Susan Barton, who billed herself as the "Founder of Bright Solutions for Dyslexia," located in San Jose California.
Under Medication for ADD, Ms Barton states: "Medication is the most often an essential component to effective treatment for the ADD child."