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The Surprising Economic Burden Of ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

It is estimated that as many as 10 million U.S. adults have ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).  A recent research study (publication-pending) suggests that the economic burden of ADHD on America could be as high as $250 billion annually. I attended a recent briefing on Capitol Hill and interviewed one of the study’s co-authors: Tufts economist, Dr. Peter Neumann as well as congressman (and psychologist) Tim Murphy about ADHD in America.

I learned from Dr. Neumann that cost these high cost estimates are most strongly influenced by reduced productivity in adult workers with ADHD rather than direct costs of treating children with the disorder. Productivity costs include absenteeism, and reduced work output due to difficulty focusing. Dr. Neumann explained that ADHD has many “spill over effects” in that it impacts the educational system, the justice system, the healthcare system, and our work environments. Please check out our interview video for the full story.

Congressman Tim Murphy is a clinical psychologist with three decades of experience in treating people with ADHD. He is also Co-chair of the Mental Health Caucus and GOP Doctors Caucus where he regularly works to raise awareness of healthcare accessibility needs. I had the chance to interview him also at the event.

I learned from Rep. Murphy that the costs of ADHD multiply when patients are untreated.  Getting the correct diagnosis is critical, because impulsivity and problems with focusing are not always caused by ADHD. These symptoms can be caused by lead poisoning, damage to the limbic system of the brain, metabolic disorders, or even sleep apnea. Children who are inattentive should not be put on medications for ADHD without first confirming the diagnosis by ruling out other possible causes.

Rep. Murphy recommends a team approach to the management and treatment of ADHD and he believes that costs related to ADHD are escalating because some physicians are not managing children holistically, but resorting to prescribing medications without involving counselors and family directly. He sees lack of health insurance coverage for behavioral health services as a threat to comprehensive and effective ADHD treatment.

Please watch the video for the full interview with congressman Murphy.

*Please note that the panel event, and Better Health’s participation, was made possible by a grant from Shire Pharmaceuticals.

ADHD: Fact Or Fiction? Join Me On Capitol Hill

adhdAttention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is probably overdiagnosed by physicians. In the lay public, the term is often used jokingly to describe the common feeling of distraction we experience in a world filled with interruptions. With a constant stream of text messages, Facebook updates, TV commercials, and fast-paced Twittering, there’s little wonder that we all feel frazzled at times.

But the occasional experience of jangled nerves is not a proper basis for a diagnosis of ADHD. Unfortunately, there has been great confusion between the actual disorder, and its misuse as a label for simply feeling distracted.

So to help set the record straight and to tease out fact from fiction, I’ll be attending a forum on Capitol Hill with my co-bloggers Dr. Kevin Pho and Dr. Rob Lamberts.

If you’re in the DC area, please come and join us in person. If you’d like to view some of the event via the Internet, we’ll be conducting live interviews with the speakers on Ustream. You can join the conversation by asking your questions in real time in the chat room starting at 2:00PM (EST) on Thursday, September 16, 2010. Please save the Ustream link to join the conversation: Read more »

NIH Director Francis Collins Jams With Aerosmith’s Joe Perry At Capitol Building


Rudy Tanzi, Joe Perry, Francis Collins

I know. I was just as surprised as you are. Dr. Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Project, author of The Language Of God, and new director of the National Institutes of Health performed live in front of a group of Washington locals at the Capitol building today. He actually jammed with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry in an “unplugged” performance of Bob Dylan’s, “The Times They Are A Changin’.” This is not the kind of thing one expects in the hallowed halls of the Capitol building. But maybe it’s time to expect the unexpected?

I happened to have my reporter’s microphone with me in the audience so I recorded the song. The vocalist is Dr. Collins, Joe Perry does a guitar solo near the end, and Dr. Rudy Tanzi is on harmonica. The sound quality is… well… it’s what you’d expect from a hand-held microphone. But it’s worth a listen, just to get to know our new NIH director a little better!

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Delta Goodrem

Australian pop star and cancer survivor Delta Goodrem followed Dr. Collins with this acapella beauty (again, forgive the sound quality):

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A few things struck me about the event. First of all, Francis Collins is more of a “firecracker” than I expected. I read and reviewed his book recently, and his vivacious personality did not come through in its pages as well as it did on the stage with Joe Perry. He’s a fun-loving guy, a serious scientist, and very committed to advancing research and encouraging young people to rekindle their interest in discovery. That’s all very good news for America.

Secondly, I was touched by Joe Perry’s story about wanting to be a marine biologist when he grew up. Apparently he had a learning disability of some sort that was not addressed in school. For that reason, his test scores suffered and he looked for ways to excel outside of the classroom. His bright mind discovered an immediate affinity for music, and he poured himself into a career as a rocker. He still yearns for the ocean, though, and is a certified diver. As I looked at Joe, I kept thinking – my gosh, he might have been the next Jacques Cousteau if he had more help in school. But brilliance finds its own way to flourish – and Aerosmith became his outlet instead.

Thirdly, I realized that there are in fact a few congressmen with their heads screwed on straight when it comes to science. I had almost lost hope after watching video footage of Tom Harkin instructing scientists to validate his opinions rather than test whether or not certain things were true. Yikes. But the three co-chairs of the congressional biomedical research caucus, Reps Brian Bilbray, Mike Castle, and Rush Holt, seemed to truly understand some of the issues facing the advancement of medical research – and are determined to move America forward.

And finally, I noted that there wasn’t a single female or minority “rock star scientist” in the program. That made me a little bit sad. Are we really that rare? I guess we still have a long way to go on that front… And since Dr. Collins mentioned that only 15% of US students are enrolled in science or engineering bachelors’ programs (compare that to 50% in China or 75% in India) we are soon going to be playing catch up with the rest of the world in terms of scientific discovery.

So we’ve got our work cut out for us folks – with our youth’s waning interest in science education, the excessive red tape that is slowing down the process of producing cures, and the public getting their medical advice from the likes of Jenny McCarthy, there has never been a more important time to restore science to its rightful place.

Maybe Francis Collins is going to “bring sexy back” to science?

Whatever works!


More info on the Rock Stars Of Science program.

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