The Spin Doctors: “ADHD” Research

This article by Patrick Hahn has been published on the Mad in America website. It begins:

“We all learned as freshmen that science is objective. But in fact, the evidence base for psychopharmacology … is manufactured and shaped and spun by experts whose interests may not be coextensive with yours or mine. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis on ADHD medications by Joseph Biederman and his colleagues at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital gives us some insight into how this process works.

A favorite rhetorical tactic for proponents of ADHD drugs—whether they are writing in the scientific literature or the popular media—is to cite a long list of negative consequences purported to result from ADHD, begging the question of whether drugging children or adults for this condition reduces the likelihood of any of these bad outcomes. However, this paper by the Biederman group concluded that ADHD medications do indeed reduce frequency of a number of important harms.

Probably no man alive has done more to promote the diagnosis and drugging of children and adults for something called ‘ADHD’ than Dr. Biederman, so this article is worth examining in some detail.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the studies reviewed by Dr. Biederman and his colleagues. Not one of them was a randomized controlled trial. All of them were observational studies relying on data extracted from population-wide databases or large health insurance claim databases, and either compared individuals who were prescribed ADHD medication with those who were not, or else compared data from the same individual when he was adherent to treatment to when he was not. This kind of study is prone to bias, for a couple of reasons …”

You can read more from here.

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