On December 14, 2013, Alan Schwarz of the New York Times wrote that Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder has become an epidemic because of pharmaceutical industry marketing efforts. He posits that efforts to sell prescription medications such as Adderall and Ritalin have been so successful that children are being over- and misdiagnosed and unnecessarily medicated. Furthermore, Schwarz warned that the pharmaceutical industry, having milked the children’s ADHD market for every penny, was now turning its attention to adults.
Unfortunately, this type of alarmist journalism does little to educate or build awareness about adult ADHD. Many adults who suffer with untreated ADHD avoid seeking diagnosis or treatment due to the negative stigma that results from portraying ADHD as little more than laziness targeted as a marketing opportunity by pharmaceutical companies.
Research shows ADHD diminishes adults’ quality of life. While occasionally some may receive a misdiagnosis, there are far more people who loath the thought of seeking help for undiagnosed ADHD due to items such as the Times article. Despite the "epidemic” of ADHD, 85% of adults suffering from ADHD do not know they have iti, and will not seek help because of the labels associated with the disorder.
ADHD is not a "one size fits all” disorder and many factors must be considered before a definitive diagnosis is made and an appropriate treatment is found. Medication is not always an effective treatment, and there are many adults with ADHD who do not want medication as part of their treatment plan.
ADDA provides accurate and science-based education on treatment alternatives such as CBT, ADHD coaching, and medication. As research has proven the benefits of additional treatments, ADDA has expanded its education efforts to include strategies such as mindfulness practice, exercise, diet and therapy. ADDA does not endorse any one course of treatment and provides a disclaimer on its Web site urging people to consult a professional for advice.
ADDA receives funding from pharmaceutical companies with similar goals: aiding adults with ADHD. However, ADDA has no hidden agenda to push medication on individuals, nor does the association suggest pills are a cure-all. ADDA has strict policies regulating how the association interacts with pharmaceutical companies.
Over the past 25 years, ADDA has witnessed the devastating effects of untreated ADHD on the adult population, with far reaching effects on families and communities. ADDA is dedicated to helping those adults struggling with ADHD lead better lives.
ADDA must continue to work hard to end the stigmatization of ADHD by building awareness, providing unbiased, science-based information and resources and by providing a supportive community for adults dealing with the disorder on a daily basis. ADHD is not something one outgrows, but its symptoms, and the associated suffering, can be minimized with the proper help and support.
We have made strides in education, awareness and advocacy, but there is still a long way to go.
The ADHD adult’s suffering has a far-reaching impact on the economy as a whole. A recent study analyzed the economic impact of childhood and adult ADHD in the U.S. The study estimated ADHD's overall national costs ranged from $143-$266 billion and that adult ADHD accounted for $105-$194 billion of societal costs in the U.S. alone. A good portion of these costs is due to losses in productivityii. Research continues to show that adults with untreated ADHD lose an average of 22 days of productivity per year, representing an annual cost of $88-$141 billion in 2009iii. Not only does ADHD affect the work of the sufferer, it also affects their wages. Adults with ADHD earn an average $10,523 to $12,189 lower income per year compared to those not suffering from ADHDiv.
And what’s the risk of stigmatizing ADHD so that adults with ADHD avoid diagnosis and remain untreated?
Over 25% of adults in correctional institutions struggle with ADHDv. In fact, specific learning disabilities and ADHD are the most common disabilities among the correction population. Furthermore, they frequently occur together and affect up to 60% of inmatesvi. Considering that at least 4.4% of the general adult US population has ADHDvii and 14% have a specific learning disabilityviii, we can state with confidence that stigmatizing ADHD so the people who need treatment do not get it is not the wisest course.
With proper diagnosis and a support system, adults with ADHD can be as productive and as successful as their, "normal" counterparts, as well as having a fair wage according to their specialties. ADDA always encourages people to see a professional specializing in ADHD to get a proper diagnosis and to get the necessary aid in order to help lead a productive and healthy life.
The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) is the world’s leading adult ADHD organization. Our mission is to provide information, resources and networking opportunities to help adults with Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) lead better lives. Since its inception 25 years ago, ADDA has grown to become the source for information and resources exclusively for and about the adult ADHD community.
Evelyn Polk Green
Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)
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iiiHilton MF, et al. The Association Between Mental Disorders and Productivity in Treated and Untreated Employees, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (Sept. 2009): Vol. 51, No. 9, pp. 996–1003.
ivBiederman J, Faraone SV. The effects of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder on employment and household income. Med Gen Med. 2006;8:12.
vRobert Eme, PhD, Patrick J. Hurley. Spinning Out of Control, ADHD and the Criminal Justice System, , page 19. Compilation of a number of studies cited.
viYoung, S., Adamou, M., Bolea, B., Gudjonsson, G., Muller, U., Pitts, M., …Asherson, P. (2011). The identification and management of ADHD within the criminal justice system: a consensus statement from the UK adult ADHD network and criminal justice agencies.(NICE Report) BMC Psychiatry, 11, 1-14.
viiBarkley RA, Fischer M. The unique contribution of emotional impulsiveness to impairment in major life activities in hyperactive children as adults. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2010, 49(5):503-513.
viiiGregg, N. Underserved and Unprepared: Postsecondary Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, Volume 22, Issue 4, pages 219–228, November 2007