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The NY Times & ADHD

Saturday morning and I thought I’d been spammed.  My Email inbox was filled with the same headline about ADHD and the NYTimes.

But each Email was from a different person.

Of course, it turned out that The New York Times had done yet another scathing article on ADHD. 

The N. Y. Times is infamous amongst those of us working to end the stigma and suffering around ADHD, because past articles have been dismissive, alarmist, and in this age of declining newspaper readership, seemingly deliberately controversial. 

Stirring the pot. 

Getting website hits. 

Generating traffic and ad revenue.

This article was different.  There was some good information about legitimate concerns about medication, overuse, abuse, and so on. 

But along there way there was a frustrating amount of oversimplifications, alarmist nonsense, half-truths, stuff taken out of context, and more.


This article will be a moneymaker for many ADHD specialists who inevitably receive  a wave of calls from frightened clients, “But it’s in the New York Times!”

Now, hey, I grew up thinking newspapers reported facts.

Then I started creating stage shows, radio programs, television shows, and more recently programs about ADHD. 

These generated publicity, promotion, reviews, articles, human interest pieces… And almost every one contained factual errors. 

One reporter interviewed The Frantics and took copious notes. 

The finished article had quotes by me, ‘Rick said that…’ which were in fact said by Dan, or Paul. Some quotes were pure inventions.  Which was fine, because they were quite clever.


I won’t go into the article at length.  I’ll let one of the medical experts slash and burn their way through it.

But I can tell you that in a previous NY Times article the reporter mentioned our program, ADD & Loving It?!  though not by name. (The article was about how a young man died from abusing medications.)

The article said that in the documentary a doctor claimed that ADHD medications were safer than aspirin.  Outrageous right? 

How could anyone say that? 

Actually, two doctors say it in the program.

Because it’s true. 

Fast food kills far more people than guns ever do.  But that doesn’t make good news.

And fast food companies buy way more advertising space on TV, radio, and newspapers than gun & ammo manufacturers do.


The point is not this particular article, or the NYTimes agenda around ADHD.  (And hey, medication is tricky, and it is being abused. That’s true of every medication.) 

Why this paper has decided to target this disorder is a mystery. 

Perhaps a senior editor was misdiagnosed.  Or is afraid they have it.  (In our documentary Dr. Hallowell mentions that there are a lot of journalists who fall into the ADHD spectrum.)  

Perhaps someone’s child was misdiagnosed.  (Hey, I went nuts for about 5 minutes when my son was diagnosed.)

Perhaps ADHD is an easy target and they know it’ll generate lots of heat.  (Hey, it’s got me blogging about it.)

Who knows.  It doesn’t matter.

Here’s what you need to know.  Here’s what does matter to you: Trust no one. And be open to everyone. Learn, read, explore, and always ask questions.

Arm yourself.

And be prepared to let go of what you already know.  As Dr. Steven Kurtz famously says at the beginning of ADD & Loving It?!:

“What I learned to do in graduate school to treat ADHD, I would now consider malpractice, which I know is a very strong statement, but it’s one that I do make and I make confidently.”

Think about that.  The only thing you can be confident about is that you can’t be confident about anything. Even The New York Times.



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  1. Ourteam December 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I was glad you commented about this. You may not be a famous ADHD name/face like doctor Hallowell, Ratey, Amen, or Barkeley, but you are important and here’s why:
    I get moved by these sensational NY Times articles of late- and I was diagnosed 20 years ago! I am still uncertain my diagnosis is real, after all the brain studies I’ve read, and scans I’ve seen. “Maybe, this is all too good to be true,” my ignoble side says. (We all have a Gollum talking inside us at least some of the time, when we’re attempting to live right.) So that’s where you make a difference. I can see that I have kin out there who understand the issues I grapple with in this big, and often bad world that seems bent on destroying the truths we hold so evident- or at least try to, daily.I am impacted by your words and can then put on my lenses that are more clear now than before I read your blog. Thank you and keep up the good works.

  2. sdwa December 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Good call. I saw that, too.
    They made it sound like:
    1) Everyone treats their ADHD with medication, and there is no other way, so diagnosis automatically means money for Big Pharma.
    2) Diagnosis is made based on one or two symptoms.
    3) All children with ADHD do poorly in school and have noticeable behavior problems that parents and teachers seek to medicate away.
    None of which is true.
    I vaguely recall a lot of other faulty assumptions, but having ADHD, can’t tell you what they were without re-reading the article. It was annoying enough the first time, so I’ll have to pass.

  3. Pridan December 17, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to comment on this article. This is a place where a lot of us come for support and it is nice to have this link to post or forward when the NYTimes article is thrown in our faces.

  4. Larynxa December 20, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Here’s ADDA’s official response to this piece of “yellow journalism”: https://add.site-ym.com/?ADDARespondsNYTimes

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