Overdiagnosis of ADHD & Prescription Medications

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the ultimate guide used in the psychiatric and medical fields (Myers and Dewall #). Each DSM edition has been used to medically diagnose patients and provide efforts for treatment (Myers and Dewall #). Today, physicians and mental health workers are using the fifth edition. However, many people are skeptical of the new addition. The DSM-5 has a broad spectrum in which multitudinous behaviors can lead to disorder. This concerningly brings about questions of overdiagnosis and how the DSM-5 may be pathologizing everyday thoughts and actions (Myers and Dewall #). Along with these new disorders and diagnoses, comes a surge of prescription medication usage. These two intertwined and correlating problems are leading to what could be considered a vastly growing epidemic.

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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder characterized by severe inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity (Parekh). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 4.4 million children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2003. In a little over a decade, the numbers had increased by nearly two million (Data and Statistics). On page 531 of Exploring Psychology in Modules, written by David G. Meyers and C. Nathan Dewall, the overdiagnosis of ADHD is discussed. This is a particularly controversial topic. Many people believe that the climbing numbers of those diagnosed is due to increasing knowledge and a better understanding of the disorder. Regardless of the facts, overdiagnoses is leading to a drastic increase in prescription medications.

The combination stimulant medication of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, more commonly known as Adderall, is one of the most common medications used to treat ADHD. An alarming amount of evidence shows that this controlled prescription medication produces effects similar to those experienced by meth and cocaine users, especially when taken by someone who does not have ADHD. Due to the high feeling that users experience, Adderall is desired by many people across the country. People who have illegally taken the medication before report that it is not hard to obtain, whether stealing from medicine cabinets of family and friends or purchasing it illegally on the streets. The ease of finding Adderall could potentially be a result of the overdiagnoses of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This is a major and widespread problem throughout the United States. Adderall addiction can lead to prolonged altered behaviors, depression, and strong suicidal thoughts and actions (Adderall Symptoms). Reports of Adderall being injected and snorted have arose since the drug became more popular on the streets. Although users experience a better high, these methods are capable of quickly leading to fatal overdose (Adderall Symptoms).

Environmental factors play a massive role in children who are diagnosed with ADHD. A strong lack of parenting and good living situations often times causes children to have emotional problems. When these kids attend school and are too loud and commonly act out, the solution is to diagnose them with ADHD. By taking this into account, the DSM-5 make changes to the too broad of a spectrum, making it stricter and more difficult to diagnose people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. People are blinded by the idea that it is common for these kids to have ADHD, when the outbursts and lack of listening can often be blamed on a poor environment. Similar to the later abuse of Adderall in teen and young adult years, the desire for this drug could sometimes be blamed on home environments. If parents are too hard on their children, teens may use the stimulant in order to be alert and give themselves the energy to be successful at their schoolwork or athletics. Regardless, if children are misdiagnosed at an early age, the dependence of prescription medications can cause early problems and lead to a long, difficult recovery farther down the road.

People who do not believe that the overdiagnosis of ADHD leads to the increasing illegal sales of Adderall would tend to say that anyone who has a prescription from a doctor must need it. They believe that is its prescribed, addiction will not occur. These skeptics do not understand how stimulant drugs can quickly affect the mind and body of those who do not need it. Regardless of what people want to believe, there is a clear correlation between these two issues. Data has proven that there are rising numbers in ADHD cases. In addition to this, the street use of Adderall is more prevalent than ever. The DSM-5 must take into consideration its broad spectrum and physicians, as well as all those involved in this epidemic, need to really consider all aspects of a case before taking drastic actions to diagnose.

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Overdiagnosis of ADHD & Prescription Medications. (2020, Feb 26). Retrieved February 6, 2023 , from

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