In 2011, about 11% of American children between ages 4 and 17 were diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Psychiatric Association, however, believes that only 5% of American children actually have the disorder. Yet, the diagnosis is given to many more children, and the number keeps rising.
France disagreed so heavily with America’s standards for diagnosing ADHD that they created their own classification system, the Classification Francaise des Troubles Mentaux de L’Enfant et de L’Adolescent (CFTMEA). With French doctors abiding by these systems, they diagnose and medicate less than 1% of French children. (The number is actually less than .5%. Amazing!)
Why Does France Define ADHA Differently?
Unlike the US, France doesn’t believe biological factors or chemical imbalances cause ADHD. Instead, they believe it’s a product of social settings or situations. Sociological versus neurological.
The CFTMEA urges French doctors to pinpoint the underlying problems that cause the child’s symptoms, then address them using methods such as psychotherapy or family counseling. It is here that doctors study the child’s stress patterns and how it varies throughout various social situations.
French psychiatrists also pay close attention to a patient’s diet when searching for ADHD symptoms. Eliminating poor food ingredients such as artificial coloring and dyes, preservatives, sugars, and allergens can have a huge positive impact on a child’s behavior.
Why Are There Fewer ADHD Diagnoses in France?
Family therapist and author Dr. Marilyn Wedge suggests it is the cultural differences in France versus America. France, for example, imposes stricter discipline methods on their children. From a young age, babies “cry it out,” meal times are strict, and children learn self-discipline from a young age.
Sadly, spanking is also a generally accepted practice in France. In fact, French courts view it as “a right to discipline,” which Dr. Wedge believes adds to their already-strict lifestyles.
Other doctors believe there are fewer cases of ADHD in France merely because of their holistic approach to diagnosing and treating the disorder. That, and pharmaceutical companies don’t targeted them as heavily as the US.
The Role of Big Pharma
Pharmaceutical companies, or Big Pharma, play a bigger role in ADHD diagnoses than one might think. They put out false information meant to persuade consumers to purchase medication, understating negative side effects, overstating benefits, and exaggerating the dangers of ADHD. TV ads aren’t the only ones who do this. In fact, Big Pharma pays doctors and researchers to make these false claims.
Even studies from so-called “trusted” universities like Harvard and John Hopkins are funded by pharmaceutical companies who profit from drug sales. These very drugs are so dangerous, they are placed within the same class as morphine and oxycodone, due to their abusive and addictive nature.
Not all doctors are to blame. Some genuinely believe the studies. What they fail to do is investigate where exactly these studies have come from and who is behind them.
Imagine this. A monster fills your television screen, raving and screaming and causing general havoc. One pop of ADHD pills, and this monster morphs into a cherub. The caption? “There’s a great kid in there.”
This is not fiction, but rather based on an actual 2009 ad from Intuniv, makers of an ADHD treatment. These ads emotionally play on fearful and exhausted parents who only want to help their kids. With ADHD medication, the ads promise, test scores and home behavior improve.
Even the FDA has warned pharmaceutical companies to remove and eliminate these ads because they are false and misleading.
France isn’t victim to this sort of emotional manipulation. Because France defines, diagnoses, and treats ADHD differently than the US, these ads are not nearly as effective.
There are other ways to treat ADHD in both children and adults!
Dr. Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D.
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