The methods and language of the drug industry can be quite curious; despite the fact that all medications, prescription or otherwise, are in fact drugs, it seems to try to separate “medication” from “drug.” As such, the regulation of medications by the FDA is often ambiguous and confusing, and the language used can be misleading for consumers. For example, amphetamines are under the same class of drug cocaine and methamphetamine is under. Amphetamines is a stimulant that has been the traditional medication for treating ADHD, but under the familiar brand name of Adderall. This is one of many marketing strategies used by the drug industry, and ever present in the media.
In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in ADHD prescriptions for not just children, but also for adults. By 2012, there were nearly 16 million monthly prescriptions for people aged 20-39. This phenomenon has been fueled by the drug industry pushing for more prescriptions, resulting in media influences present in advertisements and articles suggesting not only that restless children should be on Adderall, but also cultivating a wide spread notion that possible symptoms should be treated right away to prevent further mental health problems.
There has been an increasing concern in the medical community that ADHD is over diagnosed, and that pressure from concerned parents combined with brief and superficial assessments are likely to lead some children receiving inappropriate prescriptions. Many of these prescriptions are allegedly “new” drugs under different names that drug companies market despite the compounds in the drug being the same, and often these new drugs are not even FDA approved, as the video below explains.
Ritalin, Concerta and Modafinal (which are also amphetamines, like Adderall) are examples of this marketing scheme, and it is clearly working. During the 1990s, there was a 700% increase in the use of psychostimulants, with the United States consuming 90% of the world’s supply of the drugs. This begs the question, is ADHD overdiagnosed in the US? Why aren’t other countries exhibiting proportionate amounts of ADHD diagnoses? The symptoms of ADHD can easily be seen in toddlers; children are known for their short attention spans and restlessness. But the marketing of ADHD medications in popular sources of media (i.e. commercials and magazine ads) have led parents to believe that something is wrong with their child.
Further, although behavioral literature shows that stimulants can help improve sustained attention, they may also impair performance of tasks that require adaptation, flexibility, and planning. Other adverse effects include increased heart rate, insomnia, and anorexia. The anorexic effects of amphetamines are especially problematic in a population of young children that require adequate levels of nutrition.
Adderall and other amphetamines used for medical purposes and treatments should be fully disclosed as a drug, not a cure – and should be treated as such. Prescribed medication can induce positive behavior effects, but also come with other dangerous effects like any other drug. The media plays a significant role in perpetrating a fragmented image of medications to a society who buys into the industry, influenced by fear and fragmented information.