Studies show that U.S children are three times more likely to be medicated with psychotropic medication than children in Europe. Why?
Global prevalence of childhood ADHD based on retrospective recall in adults aged 18–44 years. Figure developed using data from Fayyad J et al. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 2017; 9: 47-65.1
Do U.S children really have more issues that children anywhere else? The simple answer is NO.
Societal change from technology, while profound, impacts most countries equally, so what makes the U.S. different? The U.S diagnoses and medicates more children due to a combination of factors:
A Belief in “The Quick Fix”
The U.S., perhaps more than any nation, prides itself on its technical innovation and ability to solve problems. We believe and trust that our medical system can fix anything. But the brain is the most complex system we know of. It doesn’t lend itself to simple solutions. We don’t have a pill that “fixes the brain”.
Changes in Medicine and Medication Marketing
The U.S. is unique in its direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical marketing. Drug advertising, and especially the message that psychiatric drugs simply fix a “chemical imbalance” in the brain, minimizes the perception of their impact. (In fact, the “chemical imbalance” idea was a marketing approach to make psychiatric drugs more palatable to the public.) Other countries and cultures are often more wary of medicating their children.
Changes in Parenting
Modern parents tend to be less strict. We are not the feared authority figures of previous generations (probably not a bad thing) but children are often less disciplined, and parents more willing to control behavior with medication.
Changes in Teaching
Whereas teachers once taught and controlled their classrooms, they are now instructors, leaving behavioral issues to parents – who (see above) are also less inclined to discipline. The result: A visit to the pediatrician for medication.
Cost and Shortages of other Services
While medication is covered by insurance, other services, like therapy, CBT and neurofeedback are not – making medication the most affordable option. Diagnosis and medication for issues such as ADHD and depression are highest in U.S. States with the lowest incomes.
The U.S. allows chemicals and additives in food that is known to cause behavioral issues in children and is banned in many countries.
There are no “quick fixes” for our children, no pill to solve their issues. What we need is a thoughtful and comprehensive approach that includes better diagnosis, and solutions that include behavioral therapies, attention to lifestyle, diet and parenting. Neurofeedback is just one of these approaches.