In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking prescription medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is .5%. Yes, I had to re-read that. Not 5%, but point 5%. That’s astounding. And it begs the question, what gives?
An article in Psychology Today gives insight into the difference. Here is an excerpt, plus a link to the entire article.
“How come the epidemic of ADHD—which has become firmly established in the United States—has almost completely passed over children in France? Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the United States.”
The bottom line is that in the US behavioral issues are treated as a biological disorder with biological causes so the preferred treatment is biological – psycho stimulant medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall. The French, on the other hand, view ADHD as a condition with social and situational causes. Instead of treating children’s lack of focus and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for underlying issues that is causing the child distress – not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context. Plus French doctors do not use the same system of classification for childhood emotional problems as American doctors.
“French holistic, psycho-social approach also allows for considering nutritional causes for ADHD-type symptoms—specifically the fact that the behavior of some children is worsened after eating foods with artificial colors, certain preservatives, and/or allergens. Clinicians who work with troubled children in this country—not to mention parents of many ADHD kids—are well aware that dietary interventions can sometimes help a child’s problem. In the United States, the strict focus on pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD, however, encourages clinicians to ignore the influence of dietary factors on children’s behavior.”
In summary, we believe that in this case, the French have it right. In America, we are diagnosing way too many kids with ADHD and those that are being diagnosed are being treated with drugs rather than natural approaches.