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Rosemond: ADHD is not real

Living with Children

POSTED: April 2, 2017 7:00 a.m.

In 2009, pediatrician and former medical school professor Bose Ravenel and I published “The Diseasing of America’s Children” (Thomas Nelson), in which we argued from facts that ADHD and other childhood behavior disorders were inventions of the psychological-psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry.

Cancer, high cholesterol, influenza, measles and a broken bone are realities. Using various tests, physicians can prove their existence. No one has proven the reality of ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder or bipolar disorder of childhood. They are constructs.

Drugs used to treat verifiable physical disease and disorder are based on fact. Drugs used to “treat” childhood behavior disorders are based on theories that no researcher has ever established as true. That is why said pharmaceuticals do not reliably outperform placebos in clinical trials.

Just to be clear: I am not saying ADHD is over-diagnosed – I am saying it does not exist. It is a fiction. I’ve been saying this since the early 1980s and have been the target, since then, of much professional and parent criticism, even scorn. Russell Barkley, for example, widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on ADHD, equates me with Scientologists and claims that I believe television causes ADHD. He cannot honestly debate me, so he mocks me and distorts what I have actually said.

Now Barkley has another psychologist he can mock. This time, however, the psychologist in question is Harvard professor Jerome Kagan, the author of numerous books and research papers on children and child development. I studied Kagan in graduate school. I’m certain Barkley did as well. A peer-ranking of the top 100 psychologists of all time puts Kagan at number 22.

In the January 2017 edition of CuriousMindMagazine.com (“Renowned Harvard Psychologist Says ADHD Largely a Fraud”), Kagan is quoted as saying that ADHD is “an invention.” Referring to the drugs used to supposedly treat ADHD, Kagan says that if a drug is available, physicians will use it. He goes on to challenge the diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder, the very concept of mental illness, and asserts that rates of teen depression and anxiety are grossly inflated. Sadness and anxiety are normal events during adolescence, says Kagan.

Who benefits from these falsehoods? Psychiatrists, psychologists and the pharmaceutical industry. He describes his own (and my) profession as “self-interested.” That is scathing but no different than what I’ve been saying about psychology for the past 20 years: specifically, clinical psychology does not qualify as a science; rather, it is an ideology. If it was truly a science, people like Barkley would be willing to engage me and Dr. Ravenel in serious debate instead of just hurling insults and attempting to shut me up (see www.kentucky.com/living/family/article42629730.html).

Before a recent talk at a school, I was asked by the administration not to share my views on ADHD because they might upset parents whose kids have received the diagnosis. I honored the request. Nonetheless, the parents in question are the very parents who most need to know the truth. It will not be hidden much longer.

John Rosemond is a family psychologist and can be reached at johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.

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