ADHD Na­tion Alan Sch­warz Scrib­ner/ Si­mon & Schus­ter £14.99

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - BOOKS - peter hitchens health

In one of the strangest events in mod­ern his­tory, on De­cem­ber 5 last year, TV crews were al­lowed to swarm into the Cal­i­for­nia flat be­long­ing to two newly dead mass killers, Syed Fa­rook and his wife, Tash­feen Ma­lik.

Two days be­fore, the cou­ple had mur­dered 14 peo­ple and wounded 22 oth­ers at an of­fice Christ­mas party.

The FBI had been through the apart­ment like a whirl­wind, but had left much behind. One re­porter ex­am­ined the kitchen counter and noted ‘Along with or­ange juice and paratha bread were bottles of Ad­der­all and Xanax’.

This was an amaz­ing, puz­zling dis­cov­ery. Xanax is a widely mis­used tran­quil­liser. But Ad­der­all is Amer­ica’s equiv­a­lent of Ri­talin, the drug pre­scribed to mil­lions of sub­ur­ban chil­dren, who are said to have at­ten­tion deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD). What was it do­ing in the kitchen of two dead mass-mur­der­ers, whose only child was six months old?

Well may you ask. Some­body ought to. But hav­ing done so, you might go on to ask why pow­er­ful drugs of this kind, with se­vere known side ef­fects, are pre­scribed to six per cent of chil­dren in the US, and about one per cent of British chil­dren.

This is done on the ba­sis of a vague sub­jec­tive check­list. There has never been a valid ob­jec­tive test for ADHD.

Ad­der­all is an ac­tual am­phet­a­mine. Ri­talin is so sim­i­lar to it that it is hard to come up with a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence. Both drugs have a con­sid­er­able black mar­ket, and Ad­der­all is some­times even snorted like co­caine by il­le­gal users.

In this coun­try, am­phetamines are il­le­gal with­out a pre­scrip­tion. Il­le­gal possession can in the­ory get you seven years in pri­son. Ja­pan and South Korea ban them com­pletely, even in med­i­cal use.

The world first came to know them dur­ing the Sec­ond World War as Ben­zedrine, a drug so good at dead­en­ing the feel­ings, fend­ing off sleep and mak­ing dull, un­pleas­ant tasks bear­able that mil­lions be­gan to take it ha­bit­u­ally.

James Bond uses it in Moon­raker where he mixes it with champagne to stay alert – and swears af­ter­wards: ‘Never again!’

Users found it had many nasty side ef­fects from grind­ing teeth and loss of ap­petite to delu­sions and paranoia. No­body ever imag­ined it would be used to make fid­gety boys sit still in dull class­rooms, as it now is.

Yet we read­ily give such sub­stances to chil­dren as young as two. Ten thou­sand tod­dlers were re­cently found to be on such drugs across the US.

This fig­ure is one of many in Alan Sch­warz’s of­ten dev­as­tat­ing and very nec­es­sary book – an ac­count of the growth of the ADHD busi­ness.

I am a long-term critic of the ADHD in­dus­try but Mr Sch­warz, and many of his key sources and in­for­mants – es­pe­cially ADHD pi­o­neer Keith Con­ners – are ac­tu­ally sup­port­ers.

How­ever, they are in­creas­ingly scared that they have cre­ated a mon­ster.

I beg you to read this can­did, fact-packed and even-handed study, and see for your­selves.

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