I get it. Big Pharma is greedy. But Big Pharma didn’t manifest ADHD in children (or adults) despite the obvious benefits to its bottom line. Yet last night, Bill Mahr, host of his namesake HBO show Real Time with Bill Mahr, took a shot at the pharmaceutical industry and sideswiped ADHD in the process. 


Interviewing Patrick Kennedy who wrote a tell-all book about Kennedy alcoholism and addiction, Mahr again brought forward his opinion that we humans are overmedicated, especially ADHD boys. And he blamed Big Pharma for encouraging parents to seek ADHD diagnosis for boisterous boys.

“Maybe they’re just (being) boys,” he told his panel of guests. My mouth went dry when I heard those words. ADHD, misunderstood and misconstrued again.

Much to my amazement, the guests pushed back, defending pharmaceuticals as necessary to treat mental disorders. Almost to a person, they refuted Mahr’s stance. In particular, blogger Andrew Sullivan pointed out that his mother manages her bipolar disorder with meds. Eventually, Mahr ran out of steam and time, putting an end to the discussion.

Now I actually chuckle at Bill Mahr some of the time, but let’s face it, he has a duty to be sarcastic, controversial and funny. That what his audience demands and his ratings depend on. Not to mention his salary. And renewal options. So his insistence that ADHD boys are over diagnosed fits neatly with the perspective of his entertainment/news show.

My discomfort stemmed from his dismissive statement that ADHD medication is appropriate for some children while in the same breath telling the audience that kids shouldn’t be popping pills merely for convenience. I agree. They should be taking them for the reason they were intended: to mitigate ADHD symptoms. 

True, there are some cases of childhood ADHD that are misdiagnosed and improperly medicated. But there are a lot more ADHD children out there who are under diagnosed, especially inattentive boys and girls who dawdle, procrastinate and lose barrettes, homework and lunch money. They suffer every day and their self esteem takes a beating. Identifying their ADHD can be the dawn of a new life for these kids. New studies show that when ADHD is diagnosed early (e.g. childhood), life expectancy increases. Medication is not the only treatment for ADHD.

The point is that ADHD is real. It would be real with or without Big Pharma. Sometimes medication helps. A lot. Nobody sends their child to an ADHD evaluation because they want to force drugs down his or her throat. ADHD brains are born, not built. Does Big Pharma leverage its pop-a-pill advantage? Probably, but the fact that those companies are wildly profitable doesn’t negate the healing that their medications provide.

The real question is: are teachers and parents more likely to send their child to a doctor for ADHD evaluation because they believe good behavior is as close as the nearest drugstore?

Uh, it’s getting uncomfortably warm in here. Could someone please open a window and tell me the answer is “No?”