In France, far fewer children have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders – ADHD – than their counterparts here in the United States. Inquiring minds want to know why almost 9 percent of children in the United States are diagnosed with ADHD, compared to less than 5 percent in France, another developed western democracy?
The answer lies to a large extent in how the two countries approach ADHD.
In France, child psychiatrists regard ADHD as a medical condition with psycho-social and situational causes.
In contrast, conventional psychiatry in the U.S. views ADHD as a simple biological-neurological disorder with biological causes.
The French doctors consult criteria in the CFTMEA (Classification Française des Troubles Mentaux de L’Enfant et de L’Adolescent or French Classification of Mental Problems in Children and Adolescents). CFTMEA first examines underlying social issues that may be at the root of ADHD behaviors and symptoms.
The Yanks use criteria given in the DSM-MD (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), a checklist of only symptoms and behaviors with narrowly-defined classifications.
In France, psychiatrists help patients identify, understand, and work through psychological turmoil that may present as ADHD symptoms. Dietary factors are also examined and addressed.
U.S. doctors take almost the opposite approach, dismissing as “chemical imbalances” all sorts of social circumstances, emotional traumas, and food allergies – as they ignore dietary factors, for the most part.
The French use a holistic approach to treat ADHD that has drastically lowered the amount of psycho-stimulant medications dispensed to children.
The Americans treat ADHD with addictive psychostimulant medication, alone or in combination with behavior modification therapy without much success.
There have always been kids who have short attention spans, can’t concentrate, don’t finish their work, forget things, act impulsively and sometimes without thinking, and are easily distracted.
Back in 1902, British pediatrician Sir George Still documented “an abnormal defect of moral control in children” – thought to be the first description of ADHD.
In 1936, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Benzedrine for use as a medicine, the first pharmaceutical drug that contained amphetamine (the stimulant “speed”).
The next year, In 1937, psychiatrist Charles Bradley administered Benzedrine sulfate to “problem” children at the Emma Pendleton Bradley Home in Providence, Rhode Island, trying to ease their headaches. But the doctor instead noticed improved school performance, social interactions, and emotional responses – an unexpected but beneficial side effect.
Shortly after Bradley’s discovery, the medical community began to label children with attention deficit and hyperactivity symptoms as having minimal brain dysfunction (MBD). Such kids were prescribed the stimulants Ritalin and Cylert as treatment.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) updated its diagnostic bible, the DSM-MD, in several versions, changing the label for distracted hyperactivity numerous times along the way, from hyperkinetic reaction of childhood to today’s label: ADHD.
In 1980, the DSM-III (version 3) introduced a classification for adults with ADHD. This opened up a whole new market for the American pill pushers. Evidence proves that psychiatrists have been getting cash kick-backs from the drug makers.
In shocking news from October 2019, the pharmaceutical oversight organization ProPublica “found over 700 doctors who were paid more than a million dollars by drug and medical device companies.”
The pros over at the APA invented a billable medical condition that reaps eternal profits as the dominant childhood ailment. Consider these stunning facts about what some critics call a fictional malady:
- ADHD is the most common mental health disorder that is diagnosed in children.
- An estimated 5 percent of adults in the US have ADHD, which represents 11 million individuals.
- When a person has been diagnosed with ADHD, the condition typically lasts a lifetime. There is no cure for ADHD.
The New York Times reported that from 2008 to 2012 the number of adults taking medications for ADHD skyrocketed by 53 percent and the diagnostic rate nearly doubled among young American adults.
The U.S. became the premier prescriber of stimulant medications, representing 80–85 percent of global consumption. The reality is that stimulant medications help some children but aggravate the symptoms in other people diagnosed with the behavioral condition.
Since U.S. child psychiatrists treat ADHD in children and adults with biological treatments, improvement is problematic while drug dependency is inevitable.
Using a holistic approach, the French look for underlying factors that are responsible for the patient’s disruptive behavior, acknowledging that those core issues are often enmeshed in a socio-spiritual context.
Is it time to admit that the way Americans handle ADHD could be improved à la française with more humanism and less clinicism?