Drug Traffic Accidents: ADHD

January, 8, 2014 | 15 Comments


  1. The NY Times ran a very good article with this editorial on the selling of ADHD. It featured a psychologist who once campaigned for ADHD awareness and now regrets his part in an unfolding “national disaster”:


    The most darkly hilarious part of the article was the quote from a brochure for Adderall XR: “Amphetamines have been used medically for nearly 70 years. That’s a legacy of safety you can count on.” They have a legacy, all right … but hardly one of safety.

    It bewilders me how so many “experts” seem to have forgotten the last epidemic of amphetamine abuse, in the ‘60’s and ’70’s. Repressed memory, maybe? They were probably well aware of it as teenagers when many of their favorite psychedelic bands were warning that “Speed Kills.” That epidemic, like this one, was fueled by doctors’ careless prescribing and drug company promotion of speed as a weight-loss solution (and earlier, as a remedy for fatigue and depression).

    Amphetamines were still a big problem when I worked in the railroad industry in the late 70’s. Anyone who’s worked with, or lived with, a “speed freak” can tell you that these are not benign drugs – and they can be wickedly addictive. I knew several back then who got their start by bumming their girlfriend’s diet pills. (Adderall itself is a re-purposed version of a diet pill called Obetrol, which was Andy Warhol’s drug of choice I believe.) Today they’re likely to get it straight from the doctor for “adult ADHD” – sometimes, after sampling their children’s pills.

    • Indeed, Alan Schwarz of the New York Times has written a great series of articles on ADHD. His stories, which have appeared on the front-page of the New York Times Sunday edition, have impact what some notable and long-time ADHD insiders have to say about diagnostic abuse and associated drug use. However, the broader public seems to be relatively numb. A decade ago when rates of ADHD diagnosis were at least 50% lower than they are today, the public was vocally concerned. Today, the public has been relatively silent – at least in the community where I conducted ADHD research between 1995 and 2005. In the past, any ADHD news story or commentary resulted in a firestorm of expressed opinion. Last month, an ADHD op-ed that was published in the local paper resulted in zero (0) responses (http://www.dailypress.com/news/opinion/dp-nws-oped-watson-1211-20131217,0,5149623.story). Interesting!

    • When discussing ADHD, we are talking about a disorder that responds well to stimulants, not their abuse. Ritalin and Adderall have proven to be very safe over time if taken as prescribed.

      Aspirin is more dangerous when it is abused.

      • Nothing taken over time is likely to be safe. All medicines are poisons. So they need to be used judiciously and with recognition that even if helpful on one level they still come with risks


  2. This same multi tiered scam is reported so often, that it begins to read like this:

    “And, so another day dawned with the sun appearing in the east…

    Blah. blah,blah– big yawn!”

    BUT, in reality, this very concise recap:

    “A two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies promoting the pills to doctors, educators and parents was described by Alan Schwarz in The Times on Sunday. The tactics were brazen, often misleading and sometimes deceitful. – See more at: https://davidhealy.org/drug-traffic-accidents-adhd/#sthash.IO1kTz55.dpuf

    should be followed by the sound of a stampeding swat team! or at least police sirens– or fast approaching— Bells? Whistles? A flag on the play?

    Fraud for profit that has proven serious health risks, is a crime. Right?

    A really fascinating story would explain why the FDA is a crap shoot for this level of crime stopping power– and, for the love of Larry, can we please get the skinny on why there is a rise in the tone of alacrity with each reminder that now– even doctors can view the public as so many suckers born every minute !

  3. I still take issue with the statement “There is no doubt that a small percentage of children, perhaps 5 percent, have the disorder.” The diagnosis is the problem as it is not a scientifically validated diagnosis. Big Pharma has been able to pull this kind of fraud off because we all want to believe that ADD, Depression, Anxiety, etc. are medical diseases. If you can convince the public that there is something wrong with them, you can easily sell them “treatments” for their afflictions. Whether 5% vs. 50% of kids have the disorder doesn’t really matter….. Stealing $5.00 or $5m….both are stealing.

    • It is a scientifically valid disorder. It is widely acknowledged by the vast majority of Medical Doctors and scientists around the world as a real and easily treated biochemical/electrical/neuronal complex medical dysfunction.

      • Adult ADHD is not scientifically valid. Until a very few years ago – 10 at most – most doctors didn’t agree it existed. Scientific vlidity doesn’t emerge overnight- other than from marketing departments – who can sell ideas like lowered serotonin in depression


  4. Excellent to-the point paper by Professor David Antonuccio about the “Mythical ADHD and LeFever’s research. I too take issue with the statement that there is no doubt that a small percentage of children have ADHD. That statement, with nothing scientifically to back it up, perpetuate=s the Myth of ADHD In my practice of 40 years, almost all the kids who come in with an ADHD diagnoses are, after a careful evaluation depressed, and always for a very good reason. So be clear, depression is also not a real disease, but a state of mind based upon the realities of our experience. By the way, the percentage of ASDHD diagnosed kids who aren’t depressed usually have some metabolic problem or allergic reaction to various things, a thyroid problem, endocrine problem, etc.

  5. ADHD is real, disabling, humiliating, crippling and endlessly criticized. I have it. It devastated me. No one knew what was wrong with me. but I was condemned by my Harvard/Radcliffe educated parents, my teachers, my peers and me, non-stop. It was hell. At 40, I was dx’d, treated and given a new life. Why doesn’t ANYONE ask us for our accounts? We are human. ADHD hurts, bad, deeply. Why make fun of us through condemning all doctors and an industry that saved our lives? Doesn’t anyone want to hear from us? How cruel you are. Vicious, mocking, tormenting–just like the people from our past.

    • ADHD is real for sure – it is rare and affects children but they grow out of it and temporarily while it is a problem stimulants can make a difference. The problem is once a set of loose criteria are drawn up – like a hororscope lots of people can figure they have the condition in this case of their future is mapped out in the other. All of that is fine but what you are not taking into account is marketing and how pharmaceutical company marketing can take vague criteria and use them to suck people into taking meds – none of which are safe.

      Stimulants can help people, whether you have a diagnosis or not. One of the other options is that we differ – which we do – and that the kinds of difference that lead to ADHD diagnosis might be better viewed as a different set of skills with the best option being finding where these skills fit in and not turning to a drug to help you fit in.

      I guess you don’t see the people I sse who have been badly damaged by taking a pill to change themselves in order to fit in

      David Healy

      • “ADHD is real for sure – it is rare and affects children but they grow out of it and temporarily while it is a problem stimulants can make a difference…” Dr David

        Often, children do not grow out of it. But, stimulants do make a difference–often, a profound, life-saving change. However, since you shut me out, as I said you would and as almost everyone does, you know nothing about the suffering I endured until I was 40. Dr. David, as a doctor, don’t you have some empathy for someone who describes living in hell for decades? Isn’t there the slightest concern about someone/anyone who has been brutalized for years? When it was unnecessary?

        This is what I am trying to tell people. Why doesn’t Anyone ask us what it was like, during the time we were left on our own, without proper medical care? Why isn’t someone curious enough to inquire? If I claimed a drug a lifted me out of the depths of autism or mental retardation or schizophrenia, and my new life clearly reflected such a dramatic recovery, people would be astounded and would clamor to talk to me personally (not me personally but anyone having gone through this) to try to understand what had happened. That is the natural response to a life changing event one has had. Not with ADHD. Why? Why won’t someone Listen? Why are we discounted, ignored, dismissed without the slightest twinge of conscience? I feel I am shouting through a megaphone to a deaf world, “Hear us”. We have insights into this disorder. It practically killed us. It was torture for me to attend school every day unable to learn. To sit in my chair and to try to find something to do or think about as time passed crushingly slowly, was excruciating. Not knowing what was wrong with me and being condemned constantly was worse than death. There are kids and adults today who are not diagnosed. We adapt. We compensate. We specialize in fooling people. I knew when to nod my head, smile, look sympathetic or interested, through the tone of a voice or facial expressions or body language, and it worked for a while and depending on the situation. I never knew I did that until meds gave me the ability for the first time in my life at age 40, to hear, to see, to focus without even trying. Take us into account as real human beings when you offer your opinions about it. Why doesn’t it make sense to find out what we have to say? How does it hurt to give us a voice?

        • Terri

          I think you are badly misreading things. I wrote the first guidelines for the use of stimulants for children in the UK so to accuse me of neglecting a problem or not working to make treatments available just doesn’t stack up. I still use them.

          Similar I was among the first to use SSRIs in the UK having done a PhD on the serotonin system. I still use them. But the situation has gone mad – there are likely at least 99 being harmed by the indiscriminate use of these drugs for every one who benefits.

          I have no doubt that people can benefit from a stimulant but the mass marketing of Adult ADHD which has no basis in reality is harming people. Many doctors give people an ADHD diagnosis in order to give them a stimulant – this is crazy. Giving a stimulant may be helpful but someone needs to monitor whether in fact it is helpful rathe than say you have ADHD and therefore need to continue having them.

          ADHD has become a gateway diagnosis to getting multiple diagnoses and ending up on polypharmacy. I’m glad you are benefitting but what do you say to the many who have been harmed by this industry? I’m not calling for a ban just for some realism and the ability to both use and stop these medicines


          • Dr. David, I appreciate your interest in having a discussion on this topic. I cannot solve the “mass marketing” problem nor forbid doctors from violating their oaths or don’t do proper follow up. My goal at the moment has nothing to do with those issues. You would not tell a cancer patient who was rejoicing in the healing treatment she received, settle the problems of misdiagnosis, the money wasted on research or how greedy medical doctors only seek to make big bucks for trying to treat cancer, or the drug companies peddling drugs that allegedly reduce the size tumors or kill cancer cells. You wouldn’t expect a patient to attempt to resolve those matters when having an open dialogue about her cancer, would you?
            Many drugs have serious side-effects. Warning labels advise against prescribing/using them when certain conditions exist. But, again, not my point.
            I made another comment that is gone. I don’t want to repeat the same things. At the risk of doing so, I will make this brief.

            Why, WHY, Dr. David, is no one seeking to find out what happened to us? Why is no one thrilled for the “breakthrough” modern medicine has made in and for us? Why isn’t anyone really and truly and honestly, eager to explore what our transformation has been like? That is a fair question.

          • The marketing is your problem. There is no incentive for drug companies to investigatte what might be wrong with you when they can make so much money out of not investigating it. Are horoscope designers going to sit down and work out which forecasts are accurate and why?


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