The attention deficit diagnoses didn't even exist prior to 1980, yet somehow, when I went to school back before 1980, it didn't seem to be needed. Now, according to a NY Times article (via Brothers Judd) 11% of all children are diagnosed with A.D.H.D. Judd feels that (and has repetitively stated over the years) it's "just a way to control boys", but he ignores the key statement in the Times article:
"... the pills can vastly improve focus and drive among those with perhaps only traces of the disorder, an A.D.H.D. diagnosis has become a popular shortcut to better grades..."In this very competitive world in which today's students exist, managing to cop an A.D.H.D diagnosis gives you a huge advantage.
And I do mean huge. During college, a friend's girlfriend's father was a pharmacist and via this connection I had the opportunity to try Ritalin a couple of times. It made the most mundane trivial facts and bits of knowledge seem fascinating; the most monotone and dull lecturer seem like a visionary putting forth pearls of enlightenment with me hanging (and remembering!!!) every word; and the most boring mental tasks like memorization and editing papers seem like The. Most. Interesting. Activities. Ever!
So it's not that this class of drugs increases attention via somehow controlling you. Instead, you focus because everything is so, so interesting! I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of users, even those without a supposed attention deficit, do a lot better in school than they would've if they hadn't regularly taken the drugs.
The drugs aren't particularly euphoric, but they're not unpleasant either. For example, they seemed less jittery than caffeine. I'm told they're addictive, but addiction in and of itself isn't a problem. For example, the vast majority of those in western civilization are addicted to caffeine, and it's simply not a problem. Addiction is only a problem when the cost of obtaining the drug is excessively high.
There are probably other downsides to chronic use of the drugs used to treat A.D.H.D., but they seem fairly mild, and even if more significant, excelling in school and career might well be worth it anyway.
To me, the question becomes: if grades are important to the student and the parent, why shouldn't all students be allowed to get A.D.H.D. drugs if anybody's allowed to get one. Why should only some people be allowed this huge advantage? Do we really have to teach our children to fake A.D.H.D. symptoms to get ahead? Why does a doctor have the final say about what's best for us and our children?
Everybody's focus varies - that's part of being human. Perhaps being human in this day and age is a disorder for which we need to be treated.