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If it seems like more and more kids these days are coming down with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, you're not going crazy. The numbers are through the roof. According to the Centers of Disease Control, a shocking 11 percent of all school-age children have have received an official diagnosis of ADHD, including a full 20 percent of high-school aged boys.

With those diagnoses, of course, comes more drugs for kids. Two-thirds of those currently diagnosed with ADHD are on some form of medication for it, usually Ritalin or Adderall, which can be effective treatments, but can be highly addictive. (And there are other solutions that may work even better.)

If you're also questioning whether all those kids really do have ADHD, you're not alone on that, either. It isn't just parents and school teachers who think this epidemic might be overblown. In The New York Times report on the numbers, several doctors question whether all these diagnoses are legitimate and not merely a shortcut to controlling the behavior of rowdy children. One psychiatry professor says, “There’s no way that one in five high-school boys has A.D.H.D.,” another describes the huge uptick in drug prescriptions as "pure enhancement of children;" and even the director of the CDC says "misuse appears to be growing at an alarming rate." Not only are legal prescriptions, many kids share or sell their pills to others who haven't even seen a doctor.

Naturally, amateur drug dealers aren't the only ones profiting from this. The concern about the increase in ADHD drug use has been going on for more than a decade, making the companies that produce them wildly profitable. Once a simple solution to a problem appears to be found, it's pretty easy for people to believe they might have the problem too, and nearly impossible to going back to way things were before.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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