During the last decade of the 20th century, the global production of ADHD medications increased by more than 900% and most of the increased production was consumed in the United States. Figure 1 below summarizes the trend. In concert with this trend, the incidence of ADHD among US children rose by more than 40% between 2003 and 2011. At the later date as many as 20% of teenage boys were diagnosed with the disorder. How can these remarkable and rapid changes be explained and why is the US the epicenter of this ne epidemic of childhood disorder. In addressing this question;
- Take into account the distribution of ADHD by significant sociological variables.
The state of children’s mental health and popular knowledge concerning their ability to display mental incapacitation has, in the recent past, taken a complete turn in the contemporary world. This drastic turn of events depends on the medical ideologies, political cultures and in some occasions institutional frameworks of healthcare. The rising cases of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity (ADHD) in America and other parts of the world only feature in debates and discussions of the psychological health of children. This is an implication that this disorder prevalent amongst children is rarely reported and as a result, very little data on patients is available. However, the number of prescriptions for ADHD and other related disorders is the most dependable indicator that shows rising trends for this disease amongst American children and others across the globe. This brings us to the term medicaliization and its relationship with ADHD. According to Conrad, medicalization can be defined as “a problem defined in medical terms, described using medical language, understood through the adoption of a medical framework or treated with a medical intervention”. Therefore, we can authoritatively say that ADHD is an issue of medicalization (Conrad 8).
As already mentioned above, there are no clear symptoms of ADHD that can be used to numerically describe the distribution of the disease. Subsequently, cases of ADHD are rarely reported due to their difficulty in identification hence medical practitioners use other modes of social variables to describe the distribution of ADHD. Statistics indicate that the production of Ritalin, the drug used to suppress ADHD and other related disorders, rose by an alarming 900% in the 1990s. This implied that the number of users rose with the same percentage thereby confirming the prevalence of ADHD in the United States of America (Timimi, and Jonathan 218).
In the United Kingdom, however, the distribution of this disease is measured by significantly different variables for the ones used in USA. In terms of mental illnesses amongst children, Britain applies more inflexible diagnosis criteria that identify only escalated symptoms of such disorders. This saw only 1.6% of children meeting these criteria in 2006. According to Sami and Jonathan, “British pediatric psychiatry employs the more stringent WHO (World Health Organization) diagnostic criteria which identify only the server symptoms of the disorder” (Timimi, and Jonathan, 220). In the US, on the other hand, diagnosis is dependent on psychiatrists’ personal checklists that are susceptible to modification and biasness and this saw an alarming 7% of children meeting these criteria in 2006. This is perhaps the reason why the prevalence of ADHD is more in the United States of America as compared to the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.
The high number of children with ADHD in America could be championed by the fact that American psychiatrists are at liberty of employing self motivated diagnosis criteria for identifying the disease. Conrad indicates that initially, complications like ADHD and alcoholism were not considered as diseases in the medical profession until practitioners began administering medicines for them. (Conrad 3). The diagnosis criteria in USA have also been modified in the recent past to help in declaring children as learning disabled. As a matter of fact, this has significantly increased the number of consumers of Ritalin and ADHD related depressants.
Another important aspect that compares the prevalence of ADHD in America and Britain is the fact that Hyperkinetic Disorder (HD) is the only mental disease amongst British children that is treatable by the prescription of medicines. This is as a result of government legislations that dictate that pediatricians are not at liberty of prescribing medication for other mental illnesses amongst children that are not hyperkinetic or related. American pediatricians are, however, not restricted to such principles. They are thought to feel much less constrained about administering psychotropic medication to not only school-going children but also pre-school age kids (Timimi, and Jonathan 221). As already note before, the distribution of ADHD is measured by the number of prescriptions of antidepressants and not the number of reported cases. This explains why the prevalence of ADHD is alarmingly high in the United States of America as compared to United Kingdom.
- Identify important changes that have taken place over the same period.
Over the recent years, there have been quite a number of political, medical and cultural changes that might be used to explain the reason for increased ADHD cases.
- Political changes
In America, the legislation of laws meant to outlaw unacceptable behavior has been championed by the alarmingly worsening delinquency amongst children. This legislation has also been brought forth due to increased anti-social behavior in children. According to Sami and Jonathan, this has brought about the discussion of ADHD amongst children and its medication. Clearly, such government legislations have led children to being tested for ADHD. It is important to note that in most occasions, children reported with worsening delinquency and increased anti-social behavior always test positive for ADHD. As a result, the government legislation has increased the number of children tested for ADHD and subsequently the number of children found suffering from ADHD.
- Technological changes
The rapid change in technology that was experienced in the previous decades has had adverse effects on the production and distribution of antidepressants used to suppress ADHD. Advancement in technology has made the production on such drugs easy hence readily available for use by even those children that feel slightest symptoms of ADHD. The ready availability of drugs also makes it easy for pediatricians so prescribe the medication at the slightest detection of ADHD (Timimi, and Jonathan 230).
Another astonishing this about the antidepressants and technology is the revolutionized marketing platforms and their efficacy. It is important to note that the introduction of avenues such as mass media and social media in the United States of America have made it easy for entrepreneurs and pharmaceutical corporations to market their antidepressants. Children can today access ads for their phones, iPads and laptops. As Sami and Jonathan put it in their article, “the promotional efforts of pharmaceutical corporations might be inflating demand for childhood medications”(Timimi, and Jonathan 219). For this reason, are most likely to seek such medicine at the slightest feeling of symptoms. In some occasions, children under the age of 18 go for over-the-counter medicine with the aim of controlling purported depression or stress. This is one of the most significant factors that lead to increased consumption of antidepressants and ADHD related medications (Timimi, and Jonathan 219).
- Social changes
It is important to note that social inequality in the United States of America has been a major contributor of childhood stress that eventually leads to metal incapacitation; be it mild or severe (Conrad 15). The white collar and blue collar children in this nation live in completely different conditions and as a result have varied feelings towards the value of life. The children with the highest risk of having mental illnesses due to social disadvantage and poverty are the blue collar children. In some occasions, such children have attempted suicide and are therefore declared to have been suffering from ADHD.
- Consider the implications of the observed trends for Leonard Saga’s theory that increase in longevity over the last century and a half is founded on a new modern style of parenting characterized by affection and emphasis on the encouragement of self esteem and rationality to forge a social persona well equipped to negotiate stress? What would Saga make of these recent trends in the child association?
Leonard Sagan came up with a theory to explain prolonged human life experienced in the past few decades in relation to modern parenting. He stated that long life was dependent on the modern parenting style which was characterized by love and encouragement of self esteem. He describes this mode of parenting as geared towards equipping children with the necessary skills to manage stress. However, Leonard Sagan’s theory does not seem to hold much when comparing the modern mode of parenting and the increased prevalence of ADHD. His theory gives a complete opposite of the current status of child socialization (Timimi, and Jonathan 221).
Sagan would attribute recent mental status of children to other factors like stress related to education, social class and financial status amongst others. This is an implication that he would still maintain that his theory was valid and blame the anomalies on other unrelated factors as mentioned above. He would still insist that longevity today is highly dependent on the revolutionized mode of parenting.
According to Sami and Jonathan, one can authoritatively deduce that America leads in the number of ADHD patients across the globe, but not as much due to difference in criteria used to diagnose the disease. Modes of ADHD diagnosis in the United States of America are dependent on psychiatrists’ personal checklists that are susceptible to modification thereby more children are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD in USA as compared to other parts of the globe. For this reason, the big variation on the number of patients in USA depends on the medical ideologies, political cultures and in some occasions institutional frameworks of healthcare. In conclusion, therefore, America should consider enacting legislations that would deter medical practitioners from prescribing antidepressants at the slightest detection of ADHD symptoms. This would serve a great deal in reducing the number of documented ADHD patients.
Timimi, Sami, and Jonathan Leo. Rethinking Adhd: International Perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. Print.
Conrad, Peter. The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007. Print.