psychology publishes critique of ADHD diagnosis and use of medication
August 5, 2004
of clinical psychology has published a far-reaching critique of
the ADHD diagnosis and the use of stimulant medication on children.
special edition of Clinical Psychology, published by the clinical
psychology division of the British Psychological Society, features
contributions from practitioners and academics who argue that ADHD
(attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) does not exist as a medical
entity, and that "overzealous" mental health professionals
are prescribing "addictive and brain-disabling" drugs
such as Ritalin and Concerta.
11 papers might be held up by some as a position statement from
clinical psychology on ADHD and the use of medication on children.
The edition not only effectively marks out how clinical psychologists
can intervene with children with problematic behaviour, it also
deconstructs the ADHD diagnosis.
editors, clinical psychologists Nick Radcliffe, Scott Sinclair and
Craig Newnes, wrote that it is estimated that anything from three
to 26 per cent of children in the UK are diagnosed with ADHD.
that the orthodox view that ADHD is a brain disease is flawed, and
that more regard should be given to a child's social circumstances,
experience and history in understanding their behaviour.
In an editorial
they wrote: "Our impression from spending time with young people,
their families and indeed colleagues from other disciplines is that
a medical diagnosis and medication is not enough.
clinical experience, without exception, we are finding that the
same conduct typically labelled ADHD is shown by children in the
context of violence and abuse, impaired parental attachments and
other experiences of emotional trauma."
of medical stimulants such as Ritalin and Concerta for children
have increased in the UK from about 6000 in 1994 to about 345,000
children in 2003. The editors wrote this statistic was largely due
to "overzealous mental health professionals" i.e. prescribing
psychiatrists, "complaining adults" and "overstretched
we have a growing epidemic of brain-deseased children with attention,
impulsiveness or hyperactiviy is simplistic and misleading,"
was child and adolscent psychiatrist Dr Sami Timimi of the Lincolnshire
Partnership NHS Trust who was most scathing of the ADHD diagnosis
and the prescribing of psychiatric medication on children.
In a paper entitled
The Rise and Rise of ADHD co-written by Nick Radcliffe of Telford
and Wrekin Primary Care Trust, he wrote there was "no evidence
that stimulants leads to any lasting improvement". He added
that ADHD was "primarily a culturally constructed entity".
Dr Timimi wrote:
"As a diagnosis ADHD is based on the observation of behaviours
alone, this has led to a kind of 'open season' where anyone can
'have a go': teachers, parents, school doctors, welfare officers
and so on.
a 'dumping ground' allowing all of us to avoid the messy business
of understanding human relationships and institutions and their
difficulties, and our common responsibility for nurturing and raising
well behaved children
Children are persuaded to take highly
addictive and potentially brain-disabling drugs for many years and
may well be cultured into the attitude of a 'a pill for life's problems'
In a separate
paper, entitled Helping Children and Adolescents Who Could Be Diagnosed
With ADHD And Their Families, Dr Timimi documented the methods he
used to wean 30 children off stimulant medication within 18 months.
"By seeing my basic role as that of empowering children, parents
and schools to find their own solutions, dependency on doctors need
He also added
that non-pharmacological therapeutic interventions with children
is a more economic use of resources.
One other paper
in the special issue described the work of the Cactus Clinic based
at the University of Teeside in Middlesborough. Founded by clinical
psychologist Prof Steve Baldwin who was killed in the Selby train
crash in 2002, the clinic helps children withdraw from stimulant
medication. Nutritional supplements are used during this process.
skills programme' is then worked on with parents and the child in
a bid to change a child's "inappropriate" behaviour.
I was diagnosed with ADHD'
Joe Atkinson, insurance clerk, Colorado, US
December 11, 2006
am 55 years old and thank god I was diagnosed with this disorder
when I was 30.
being diagnosed, I couldn't read above an eight grade level. I
was almost homeless, and was one failure after another.
a person has ADHD, they can't concentrate well enough to be productive
Once I got the stimulant drugs, I read history for 10 years, trying
to make up for all of those years I could not read. I was able to
get my college education, work and then retire in a professional
people trying to get people off these medications scare me. To do
that, to even to one child, is taking away that poor child's ability
to live a successful life.
for a medical diagnosis
Robinson, psychologist, Keene High School, Keene, New Hampshire,
There is a force in many US state departments of education that
requires a medical diagnosis of ADHD. As expected, that often leads
to prescription of ADHD meds, often without a thorough differential
psychological diagnosis to rule out anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.
only need a medical evaluation to rule out medical conditions that
can mimic ADHD symptomatology, such as abnormal blood sugar levels
and abnormal thyroid function. A good article.
do you think? Email your comments on the above
article to the editor using the form below. Selected comments will
© 2001-7 Psychminded Limited. All
about this article