ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) has been the most commonly diagnosed childhood psychiatric disorder in the USA since the 1960s. Opinion about how and when it should be diagnosed, whether it should be treated with stimulant drugs and what it says about our behaviour towards children and understanding of childhood has long been split. While some argue that ADHD is scandalously under-diagnosed (despite the fact that nearly 30 per cent of boys in some Southern states are identified as sufferers), others claim that it is merely a label to control children and make billions for drug companies. Alan Schwarz’s ADHD Nation is the latest in a series of medical, educational, self-help, sociological and even historical books about this most contentious of psychiatric disorders.
So what does ADHD Nation – the title of which unimaginatively riffs on Richard DeGrandpre’s Ritalin Nation (1999) – add to these debates? Schwarz, a New York Times journalist, makes