In ADHD Nation, investigative journalist Schwarz criticizes the way the disorder is treated and managed in America today.
What do you hope people will get out of this book?
I try to give people better information than they typically get. I am not saying ADHD doesn’t exist. But I would like parents to hear about the possibility that their child does not have a brain disorder, that their problems might derive from other things, and that we shouldn’t be so quick to assign a diagnosis that will stay with children for the rest of their lives. The evidence is punching us right in the face that there are way too many diagnoses being made. I would like for doctors to realize that they have been misled to think this many children have ADHD. Mere improvement on a drug is not evidence of the disorder—Concerta, one of the most commonly prescribed medications, can help anyone concentrate and be more inclined to do tedious tasks.
Should medications be marketed directly to patients?
There are a lot of things that are marketed to the public that have significant risks and need to be handled properly in order to mitigate those risks. No matter how much a parent or patient wants this product, they cannot go out and buy it. They must show that it is warranted to a medical professional, who is supposed to honor their covenant with the state that they not behave irresponsibly. If that system breaks down, far more blame should be placed on sloppy doctors than on good marketing.
Is there something wrong with people using stimulant drugs for enhancement of focus and motivation?
Our country allows the individual a right to do what they want to their body. But if we as a society feel the drug is too dangerous, we will protect people from themselves. Also, we have to consider a dynamic in colleges that is now graduating to the workplace. People who would rather not take the risks of using these drugs feel they need to in order to compete.
Why did you seek out individual stories to help demonstrate this issue?
People want to read about people, at the risk of sounding very Streisand. This book is not a screed, although some people will mistake it for one. The book is not a how-to guide to ADHD, although some people would have preferred it to be. It is a story of people—some well-meaning, some conniving, some helpless—who got caught up in this phenomenon. The important themes are best shown through the stories of real people rather than the analysis and opinions of one journalist.