Are we over-medicating for ADHD?

New drugs can bring society many benefits, helping us avoid hospitalization, fighting off cancers, and helping bring chronic conditions under control. But are we over-using Ritalin and other drugs for ADHD?

Todd Elder of Michigan State University says that the behavior of up to 1 million children may be explained not by their having  ADHD, but by their age relative to their classroom peers. Currently, 4.5 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD. Elder makes his findings known in a journal article. The cut-off dates for kindergarten rates, he says, make a big difference. From the press release:

In Michigan – where the kindergarten cutoff date is Dec. 1 – students born Dec. 1 had much higher rates of ADHD than children born Dec. 2. (The students born Dec. 1 were the youngest in their grade; the students born Dec. 2 enrolled a year later and were the oldest in their grade.)

Since the long-term effects of Ritalin use are unknown, parents whose children are “on the bubble” for kindergarten enrollment may decide to hold off for another year.

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