Are We In An ADD Epidemic?


In an article for the Financial Post, “Speed-like stimulants prescribed for adult ADHD part of ‘psychiatric fad,’ risk being used for mental edge”, Sharon Kirkey examines the “epidemic” of adults being diagnosed with ADD. Although adults, only represent 36% of stimulant medication use, the adult ADD market for those medications grew by 17% from 2013 to 2014 as opposed to only 10% growth in the children’s market.

The reason for the growth, according to McGill University psychiatrist Dr. Joel Paris, is that the diagnostic criteria for ADD in adults is too broad and that anyone who has trouble focusing could easily fit into them.

For Paris and others, this growth in the diagnosis and subsequent medication use is either that doctors are getting better at diagnosing ADD or that we, as a society, are now in what they call psychological fad-where we know we have a medication that works to improve focus so doctors try it in every case they see.

Whether you are ADD or not, stimulant medication will help to improve your focus and pay attention during your everyday life, however just because it works doesn’t mean that you are ADD. Because these medications have such a good record of improving focus, many people who are having trouble with organization, feeling overwhelmed, poor productivity etc. are now choosing to see doctors and get these stimulant medications in order to keep up with their co-workers or families.

For Dr. Paris diagnosing ADD in adults, requires a great deal of study into the adult’s childhood. If the adult remember having characteristics such as inattentiveness, poor organization, inability to focus as a child and still struggle with that today, then there is a basis to look at an ADD diagnosis. If this inability to focus is something that is new or just developed, then according to Dr. Paris, other conditions such as depression or anxiety to explain what you are experiencing.


1. Look at your own life, could other stresses be impacting your ADD?

2. What strategies could you use to minimize the impact?