Between 1995 and 2000, the number of psychotropic drugs prescribed to children in the US doubled, according to a 2005 documentary film, The Drugging of Our Children. As Justin Gardner reported for the Free Thought Project in March 2016, a new study—titled “Influence of Relative Age on Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD in Taiwanese Children” and published in the Journal of Pediatrics—found that among a group of 378,881 Taiwanese students between the ages of 4 and 17, the youngest children in a grade level were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD or receive ADHD medication than the older children. For example, children born in August were more likely to be diagnosed and/or receive medication than those born in September.
As Gardner reported, the most significant symptom of ADHD identified in the psychiatric handbook, “ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders,” is the behavior of a child who “often fidgets with hands and feet or squirms in seat.” However, these “odd” behaviors are often considered normal for younger children. A teacher can initiate a psychiatric evaluation if a child has trouble with fidgeting, not waiting their turn, or stepping out of line.
Worldwide, the number of children and adolescents being diagnosed with ADHD or receiving a prescription for ADHD has significantly increased. Putting any person—but especially young children—on ADHD medication such as Ritalin or Adderall can cause severe health consequences, including altered brain chemistry, weight loss, liver problems, and even suicidal thoughts.
Although the causes of ADHD remain unknown, the Taiwanese study suggests that a child’s age at school entry may have an effect on the diagnosis of ADHD. According to the study’s lead author, “Our findings emphasize the importance of considering the age of a child within a grade when diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medication to treat ADHD.”
Source: Justin Gardner, “Shocking Study Suggests Millions of Kids Misdiagnosed as Having ADHD Because of their Age,” Free Thought Project, March 15, 2016, http://thefreethoughtproject.com/study-finds-youngest-kids-class-misdiagnosed-adhd/.
Student Researcher: Hannah Bruner (Indian River State College)
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)