Surprise, the media gets it wrong again: Adult ADHD, a prescription for distraction ?

CADDAC National Director


Below is a recent letter written to a Globe and Mail journalist, Margaret Wente, addressing her irresponsible and poorly researched opinion piece,

If you are so inclined you can write to her at

Dear Ms. Wente,

I just read your opinion piece, Adult ADHD, a prescription for distraction, and would encourage you to actually interview an adult or two with ADHD, and a Canadian physician or two who specializes in ADHD. Unfortunately poorly researched articles and opinion pieces such as yours are harmful and highly insulting to those adults who have ADHD.

I remember a time when many people thought those with depression were just lazy, "After all," they said, "don't we all have days when we don't want to get out of bed. You just need to do it." We understand that depression is a matter of degree. Yes, we can all have a down day and yes we can all have times of distraction, but neither disorder is diagnosed unless the symptoms are at a level of impairment.

I had hoped as a society we now knew better then to judge those with mental illnesses, but for some reason media still feel that they can take pot shots at those diagnosed with ADHD. Perhaps more research into a subject, especially when it happens to be a medical disorder, and some actual Canadian content rather then rehashing other US stories might be a more responsible way to go the next time around. I would be happy to speak with you at any time should you be interested in educating yourself about ADHD.

Here are some points that you need to reconsider:

  • ADHD is not a disorder of hyperactive children or children with behaviour issues, it is a mental health disorder that requires significant impairment in attention regulation to be present before it can be diagnosed.
  • Diagnosis among women has increased because this is the group that have been under- diagnosed and misdiagnosed as depressed or anxious, often treated unsuccessfully with antidepressants.
  • We do not have the drug Adderall here in Canada, It is only available in the US, It is Adderall XR that we have in Canada.
  • Adult ADHD is not a theory. It is backed up by decades of highly scientific medical research.

Do you have any research to back up your theory that ADHD medication are widely being used for weight lose? If not, this is irresponsible journalism and harmful to women with ADHD to spread this myth.

Interesting that you state that doctors and advocates say that unnecessarily treating ADHD is not harmful. Can you quote someone on this, because after working in the field for 20 years I have never, ever hard this statement.

You do concerned parents a great disservice by dismissing them as being "anxious", and then follow it up with a quote from another article, which has undoubtedly already been taken out of context.

You are also very insulting to physicians by implying that these medications are given out to anyone who wants to be lean, have a performance edge and do six things at once.


Heidi Bernhardt
Executive Director,
Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada



An additional e-mail response to Margaret Wente after she sent the e-mail reply:


Wente: Thank you for your response.   I appreciate your perspective.
A question.  Does your organization receive pharmaceutical funding?


Yes, most if not all medical disorder organizations do, including those supporting patients with other mental health and physical health disorders. Although I am sure all organizations would appreciate it, support organizations receive very little or no funding from the government.

The way it works is that we put in a grant proposal, similar to the bell fund grant application, requesting funds for an educational grant, for a project that we feel would benefit our patient base. An educational grant stipulates that we have full control over the project and the content. There is no involvement from the funders.


This is stipulated in the contract. Rx&D regulations are also very stringent about this type of funding, which is a good thing. Regulations here in Canada are also very different and more stringent than the US, also a good thing. Are pharmaceutical companies heroes, of course not, they are in business to make money and you are correct that we as a society need to keep that in mind, and keep them in check, but neither are they all villains.

I am happy to answer the question, but actually even asking that questions indicated bias. Would you have asked the same question of the Mood Disorders organization, the Alzheimers association, or indeed even the cancer society. All of these disorders are increasing in numbers and are treated with medication. Depression and Alzheimers are also diagnosed in a similar way to ADHD. Do you question their existence?

Another fact to consider is that you and other journalists happily report and in so doing promote book sales of books such as "The ADHD Explosion" without actually reading the book, or researching whether the sensationalized, designed to sell, title is actually based on fact. Every time a new sensationalized title comes out journalists all jump on the bandwagon. But, try and get them interested in some well researched data and no one is interested. It seems that for some reason journalists still feel justified in taking pot shots at ADHD. It is a very complex disorder to understand, but an easy one to misrepresent.

Are there issues with over diagnosis in the US especially in certain pockets, possibly. Are some university and college students abusing ADHD medications, probably. But, instead of making unsubstantiated flippant comments about these issues and implying that we have the same issues here, would it not be better to actually do some Canadian research, look at the issues in some depth, discuss them in a balanced manner, and ask questions about why this is happening. Here is an article that is done well and that I have recommended our my blog.

Poorly researched articles not backed up with legitimate up-to -date medical scientific research, just perpetuate existing misinformation and stigma and continue to harm families that struggle with the pain this disorder on a daily basis.




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