Big Pharma and the A.D.H.D. Craze

Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Alan Scwharz is coming out with a new book exposing the pharmaceutical industry’s abuse of ADHD patients. His work, previous to the publication of his new book ADHD Nation, focused on the seriousness of concussions in American football. If he matches a fraction of the success he has had exposing the harm concussions have on football players, then big pharma should be very worried.


According to an interview with The New York Times the book begins by telling the story of Charles Bradly. Bradly was running experiments to “ponder the role of the brain in emotional disorders.” The experiments entailed a very painful procedure which replaced “cerebrospinal fluid in the patient’s skull with air.” This occurred during the 1930’s and is very reminiscent to the old lobotomy experiments from the 40’s.

Needless to say all these experiments are extremely disturbing. To counteract the month long headaches Bradly’s patients were getting, he purchased a “Benzedrine sulfate” medication from a pharmaceutical company called Smith, Kline, and French. Somehow the Benzedrine actually helped kids behave more attentively in class. They paid more attention to their teachers and were easier to control.

Bradley insisted however that this was not the solution to the problem. Instead, he pointed out that “they also needed psychosocial therapy,” as well as a “supportive environment that [can be] provided at home.” Unfortunately, Bradly’s research was completely ignored as soon as the pharmaceutical industry realized how much money they could make off of “calming down” children.

Schwarz offers several distinctions and critiques: He differentiates between pathology and eccentricity. He cites how clinical evaluations are based on subjective observations with less and less attention to biology. And, he voices concern for the sinister facts of the matter: “the youngest children in a classroom are more likely to be diagnosed with A.D.H.D. Children of color are also at higher risk of being misdiagnosed.”

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Schwarz doesn’t seek to undermine the legitimacy of A.D.H.D. He says absolutely, the disease is real and that it requires our attention. Yet, he does not agree, that a child with A.D.H.D should be condemned to a lifetime of medication. There are other methods to treat the issue that do not require drug use. Doctors simply do not have the means to research these methods because of the strangle-hold pharmaceutical companies have on the medical industry.

Despite the trust we’re encouraged to invest in pharmaceuticals, it doesn’t hurt to do some self-educating on the side.  Greed and power can corrupt things we once thought were incorruptible, and when it comes to giving children drugs, taking some time out of your day to read this book should be worth considering. 

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