Book Review - ADHD Nation

by Alan Schwarz (Little, Brown) ISBN: 978-1-4087-0657-2 

Diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have exploded in the USA over the past twenty years. However, the research shows that it can’t be that prevalent. 

ADHD Nation interrogates ‘the disorder, the drugs, the inside story’. It examines its history, starring the father of ADHD, Dr Keith Conners. It scrutinises drugs like Ritalin and Concerta that evolved to treat the (very real, the author emphasises) disorder. It investigates the role of a billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry that clearly sells products not healthcare. Within this context, ADHD Nation gives voice to Connors, to doctors, to parents, and mostly to patients who are misdiagnosed, some with devastating consequences. 

Schwarz is a New York Times journalist and this book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. It’s clear why. It is impeccably researched non-fiction that reads like fiction, making it enthralling and accessible. I particularly enjoyed the history of ADHD (originally ‘Minimal Brain Disorder’) and the ironic science of using stimulants to quell hyper-activity. The Big Pharma imperative to sell products (not healthcare) no doubt prevails in South Africa too. 

ADHD is an ‘everyone knows someone’ phenomenon in SA and this book provides informed and objective context. 

Deborah Minors 


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