The false claim originated from an article (archived here) published by NaturalNews.com on March 1, 2018 under the title "ADHD is a FAKE disease invented by Big Pharma to drug children for profit". It opened:
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is ubiquitous in the American classroom, there's little debate about that. According to CDC statistics from 2012, 11 percent of children between the ages of four and 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD at some point. With over six million kids diagnosed, it's hard not to wonder: Is this condition even a real problem?
Writing for The Daily Bell, Joe Jarvis explains that there is proof that ADHD is nothing more than a fake disease. As Jarvis notes, two states with some of the highest incidences of ADHD are Arkansas and Kentucky.
Sure, some kids struggle to pay attention during school -- but does that signify an actual problem with the child? Perhaps it's more indicative of a society that simply doesn't allow children to be children anymore. If you've ever found that the notion that children who'd rather play outside than sit at a desk are "broken" and need medication was a bit hard to digest, you may be right.
These states are also home to a lot of children who enjoy hunting and fishing. Jarvis reports that census data from Arkansas shows 89 percent of kids fish and 35 percent hunt. Similar survey data shows that in Kentucky, 86 percent fish and 31 percent hunt. "These were the closest indicators I could think of that Kentucky and Arkansas children are more interested in being outside and active than cooped up in a classroom," he contends.
This is what social media users saw:
First, let's look at Joe Jarvis, the sole source of this claim that ADHD is fake. The story does not list any of his credentials beyond a link to his column on another website, the Daily Bell. We could find no information on that website about Jarvis and why anyone should accept his analysis and conclusion. We did find his personal website, but its "About Me" page provided no credentials. Jarvis described himself as a "Traveler, outdoorsman, aspiring wizard." His website links to an Amazon.com page where you can order his self-published book. That page includes this description of Jarvis:
Lead Stories can tell the difference. It is our mission. To explore the fallacy of Jarvis's claim that hunting and fishing participation levels by children in Kentucky and Arkansas are proof the medical community has teamed with big drug companies to perpetuate a massive hoax on the world, we reached out to Dr. Wendy Dickinson. She is an Atlanta psychologist and founder of GROW Counseling. Dr. Dickenson agreed that some doctors do prescribe drugs for ADHD:
There is no doubt that ADHD medication is being over-prescribed currently. We do see kids in our practice that are on a stimulant who don't meet criteria for ADHD. But that doesn't mean that the need for it doesn't exist in some kids and that it's a fake diagnosis.
Dr. Dickinson disputes the claim that children are misdiagnosed when they really just want to go hunting or fishing:
ADHD is not about what kids want (i.e. to play outside) it's about how their brains function. When appropriate testing is conducted you look to see how their brain is manipulating information. What you should find is that most aspects of intelligence are inline with other aspects of intelligence (i.e. working memory, processing speed, overall IQ). However when one aspect of intelligence (i.e. working memory or processing speed) is significantly lower than other aspects then it indicates ADHD is preventing the child from performing at their best levels. In those cases some medication would allow the child to be able to perform at their natural ability.
She cites medical research finding that brain abnormalities associated with the disorder include "lower than normal activity in the caudate nucleus, globus pallidus, and prefrontal cortex along with smaller-than-normal size of these structures." Doctors use science, not financial pressures, to make a diagnosis, Dickinson said:
Psychological diagnoses are based on large scale research studies and not driven in any way by pharmaceutical companies. The development of the diagnosis is separate from the medications or treatments developed to address the issue.
This is the definition of AHDH from the website of the federal government's National Institutes of Health:
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
Inattention means a person wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
Hyperactivity means a person seems to move about constantly, including in situations in which it is not appropriate; or excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, it may be extreme restlessness or wearing others out with constant activity.
Impulsivity means a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.
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