The BBC has recently published a controversial article in which it quoted claims from headteachers that some families are seeking diagnoses of ADHD for their children for financial reasons. Predicatably, the article has stimulated some hysterical hyperactivity amongst middle class mumsnetters, who now fear that it the BBC is making it appear that all parents with children with ADHD are unscrupulous.
Unsurprisingly, fears that non means-tested, tax-free Disability Living Allowance (DLA) may be reduced are not slow to surface. cantankerous believes the BBC piece to be quite measured. It certainly doesn’t claim that all parents of children with ADHD are unscrupulous. The article’s main criticism is of the medical profession, for being too credulous and failing to obtain proper corroboration from schools before diagnosing and prescribing. But the article fails to quantify the level of state support and misses another incentive entirely. Firstly, ADHD attracts high level DLA which can be several thousand pounds per year, tax-free. Secondly, you might assume that having the unfortunate children taking unnecessary medication might stop parents seeking a diagnosis. This is untrue, since Ritalin or Concerta, known on the street as ‘kiddie coke’, is worth a lot of money on the black market. Not only do the unscrupulous get money from the State, they or their kids can sell the medication for more money. And this does happen, as Ritalin is widely available.
What cantankerous can’t understand is why the educated middle classes are so keen to get their very young children hooked on a controlled Class B drug, similar to amphetamines and cocaine, which, when crushed and snorted, or injected, produces effects almost identical to cocaine. There is hardly any decent research on the psychostimulant’s long-term effects on children, and a small study indicated that six per cent of methylphenidate users became psychotic after sustained use. Quite incredibly, most of the studies have only been of four weeks duration. And, of course, there is the question of what to do when the kids reach eighteen, which is why adult psychiatrists are being put under huge pressure to diagnose ‘Adult ADHD’. Is Ritalin for life?
The only explanations are that: short-term expediency outweighs long-term risk; medicalization reduces feeling of guilt or responsibility; diagnosis secures additional, dedicated and favourable educational resources; and the benefits payments, which can be more than £100 per week, do not go amiss either. ADHD is becoming an industry, similar to the way that the dyslexia myth established itself, allowing parents to claim that ‘darling X would be perfect if it wasn’t for his medical condition’. The middle classes always want to find another to blame – one only has to look in the pages of the Daily Mail or chat to a recently-retired-on-medical-grounds-from-a-public-sector-pension-scheme advocate of ME. But at least the ME whiners, normally burnt-out former teachers in cantankerous’ experience, are not forcing Class B drugs down their six year old’s throat.