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Why Are ADHD Rates 20 Times Higher in the U.S. Than in France?

Why Are ADHD Rates 20 Times Higher in the U.S. Than in France?

Are U.S. kids more rambunctious and unfocused than French kids? Probably not, but comparing the statistics on ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) between the two groups, it would appear so.

In the United States, at least 10 percent of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD and are taking some kind of pharmaceutical medication to deal with it. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5 percent.

The statistics for American children are startling: 19 percent of high school-age boys, ages 14 to 17, in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD and about 10 percent are taking medication for it. Ten percent of high school-age girls have likewise been diagnosed. Fifteen percent of all school-age boys have been diagnosed with ADHD and 7 percent of all school-age girls.

53 Percent Increase Over the Past Ten Years

The Centers for Disease Control conducted a survey last year, which found that an estimated 6.4 million children in the U.S. ages 4 to 17 had been diagnosed at some point, a 53 percent increase over the past decade. Approximately two-thirds of those currently diagnosed have been prescribed drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall.

ADHD is a disorder blamed for severe and frequent bouts of inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity. Children and young adolescents are those who are most diagnosed with it. The increase in the number of young people diagnosed with ADHD is not actually unique to the U.S. Last month, doctors sounded a warning over a worldwide rise in rates of ADHD, saying some children may be needlessly taking powerful drugs intended to correct a poorly understood disorder.

The French Approach

France, however, with its .5 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD, is an exception. One reason is that French child psychiatrists, instead of treating children’s behavioral problems with drugs, prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context.

Then, instead of prescribing medication, they tend to use psychotherapy or family counseling as treatment. Yes, instead of rushing to prescribe a cure-all drug, they look thoroughly into the causes of the child’s behavior.

In addition, child psychiatrists in France don’t use the same system of classification of childhood emotional problems as American psychiatrists, and their definition of ADHD is not as broad as in the American system.

So American kids and French kids aren’t that different, but the way they are treated is. Is it possible that the U.S., along with other countries, just has a bunch of lazy doctors who find it easier to prescribe whatever parents request, rather than conducting a thorough, holistic, analysis of their patients?

Nature and Exercise Can Improve ADHD

But there are some on both sides of the Atlantic who propose alternative healthy solutions to ADHD.

A growing body of research is revealing the positive effects that exercising outdoors can have on kids with ADHD.

Dr. David L. Katz, writing at health.msn.com described his experience:

When my colleagues and I conducted a study of our school-based physical activity program, ABC for Fitness, one of the findings was a 33% reduction in medication use for ADHD! I have long said that rambunctiousness in kids is normal and should be treated with recess, not Ritalin.

Then there’s the diet approach. Numerous studies have found that sugar, along with other types of unhealthy processed foods, can affect a child’s mental health, and that there is a link between ADHD and diet, specifically Western diets that include too many processed meats, full-fat dairy and unhealthy carbohydrates.

This is not to deny that some children do need drugs for their ADHD. As a teacher, I’ve seen the effects when a child forgets to go to the nurse at lunchtime to get his medication, and he becomes a completely different student in the afternoon.

However in other cases, isn’t it time that we took a step back, stopped relying on pills to solve everything, and considered natural solutions instead?

Are American Parents to Blame?

Writing in Psychology Today, Marilyn Wedge provides this provocative  approach:

“As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don’t need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.

Hmm… What do you think?

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175 comments

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12:49PM PDT on May 26, 2014

Keep in mind that while the French may not love the processed diet, they enjoy a full fat dairy diet and plenty of sugar, so can't put the blame there. I think the fact that France has some of the most liberal maternity and parental support policies in the world probably has a lot to do with better social and cognitive development in their children. Additionally - read Amanda M.'s post for the rest of the picture - teaching approaches and curriculum design in the U.S. public schools only accommodates the most compliant and competitive students, and has no tolerance for alternate approaches to learning for exceptional or creative thinkers.

4:56PM PDT on May 25, 2014

The symptoms of so-called ADHD are often also the symptoms of boredom, frustration, too much sugar or just being a kid.

10:02AM PDT on May 25, 2014

Writing in Psychology Today, Marilyn Wedge provides this provocative approach:

“As a therapist who works with children, it makes perfect sense to me that French children don’t need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.

I think this lady nailed it!

9:55AM PDT on May 25, 2014

Marilyn Wedge nailed it!

9:09AM PDT on May 25, 2014

This frightening & unbelievable the drugging-up of the world's children. It sickens me that the real culprits are not addressed, mercury in vaccinations, diet of the mother in utero, diet of the child w/ all it's food colorings & additives that are neuro-toxins, GMO food, rBHG growth hormone in dairy products, sugar! Sugar! & more Sugar! In EVERYTHING!. how about looking at that! instead of making kids walking zombies! & lining the pockets of greedy, corrupt pharmaceutical company's & the corrupt FDA that allows them to get away with all this crap!, they are "in bed" with one another, & our kids are paying the ultimate price!!!

2:38AM PDT on May 25, 2014

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INVENTOR OF ADHD'S DEATHBED CONFESSION: "ADHD IS A FICTITIOUS DISEASE"
Wednesday, March 27th 2013
By Moritz Nestor, Current Concerns
Source

11.1K

ADHD HoaxFortunately, the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics (NEK, President: Otfried Höffe) critically commented on the use of the ADHD drug Ritalin in its opinion of 22 November 2011 titled Human enhancement by means of pharmacological agents: The consumption of pharmacological agents altered the child’s behavior without any contribution on his or her part.

That amounted to interference in the child’s freedom and personal rights, because pharmacological agents induced behavioral changes but failed to educate the child on how to achieve these behavioral changes independently. The child was thus deprived of an essential learning experience to act autonomously and emphatically which “considerably curtails children’s freedom and impairs their personality development”, the NEK criticized.

The alarmed critics of the Ritalin disaster are now getting support from an entirely different side. The German weekly Der Spiegel quoted in its cover story on 2 Fe

2:36AM PDT on May 25, 2014

tivism
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Food/Agriculture
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INVENTOR OF ADHD'S DEATHBED CONFESSION: "ADHD IS A FICTITIOUS DISEASE"
Wednesday, March 27th 2013
By Moritz Nestor, Current Concerns
Source

11.1K

ADHD HoaxFortunately, the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics (NEK, President: Otfried Höffe) critically commented on the use of the ADHD drug Ritalin in its opinion of 22 November 2011 titled Human enhancement by means of pharmacological agents: The consumption of pharmacological agents altered the child’s behavior without any contribution on his or her part.

That amounted to interference in the child’s freedom and personal rights, because pharmacological agents induced behavioral changes but failed to educate the child on how to achieve these behavioral changes independently. The child was thus deprived of an essential learning experience to act autonomously and emphatically which “considerably curtails children’s freedom and impairs their personality development”, the NEK criticized.

The alarmed critics of the Ritalin disaster are now getting support from an entirely different side. The German weekly Der Spiegel quoted in its cover story on 2 Fe

9:09PM PST on Dec 13, 2013

Thank you.

4:59AM PST on Dec 13, 2013

Earning money by pushing Ritalin to kids?

3:11PM PST on Dec 10, 2013

Part of the blame can be placed on our overcrowded and "assembly-line" style of teaching and classrooms. In the elementary school setting where 20+ kids per teacher is the norm, there is simply no room for the slow learner or the quick study. Both can be seen as having ADHD for vastly different reasons-the slow learner may be seen as having ADHD because they're frustrated at not being able to get the hang of the subject, while the quick study can be mistakenly perceived as having ADHD when in fact s/he is merely BORED!

Don't even get me started on how too few parents just fail to understand or refuse to accept that the word "parent" is not just a noun-it is also a VERB! They need to teach their children acceptable behavior, set limits, and actually DISCIPLINE their children when they step out of line instead of covering for them or bailing them out!

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