W5 Activity: ADHD

In American society, medicalization and biomedicalization are common occurrences that result from the widespread marketing of pharmaceuticals. Many clinics regularly encourage the medicalization of drugs that treat conditions such as allergies, headaches, bacterial infections, or mood disorders. These are all viable remedies that provide a sense of control over issues that burden many patients and physicians alike.  This type of treatment has become a part of the American lifestyle and is generally accepted as a staple of healthcare. This trend continues with the biomedicalization that can be offered as well. Many pharmaceutical companies create treatments that not only provide control over a patient’s health, but also optimize their biology in ways that were not available thirty years ago, which, I feel, is the root of biomedicalization. Now patients can receive a gastric bypass to counteract obesity, or regrow thinning hair on their heads. These enhancements are sought out for their cosmetic or personal value, which supercedes the value to the patient’s actual health. Many forms of medicine could be interpreted as being in either of these categories. ADHD, for example, is often correctly diagnosed and treatments like ritalin, adderall, or concerta are used to aid in the control of the condition. In other cases, however, these drugs are sought by patients without ADHD or ADD in order to enhance their alertness and productivity. The link below is an ad for concerta.


This advertisement presents the ADHD treatment drug to parents of children with ADHD. It does not play to many cultural roles besides the stigma of doing poorly in school, which is, perhaps, a social role as well. It is also a social role for a parent to take care of a child, which this ad suggests by showing that, if  a child was taking concerta, they would be more successful. The medical information is clearly shown in the lower portion of the ad, although it is in very small print. It also encourages the parent to interact with a healthcare provider before considering the treatment.

One thought on “W5 Activity: ADHD

  1. In this advertisement, it is clear that the forces of our productivity oriented society are what reframe this boy’s absentmindedness into an illness. As someone who has ADHD, I definitely believe it’s a real thing, but when it comes to young children, it seems foolish to expect them not to make the small mistakes the boy in the ad made. I also think different kids develop at different ages, and some kids really struggle to thrive certain school environments. However, this ad makes a parent feel like their kid is off track if they aren’t perfect, that they need to be “fixed”. The worst part is, concerta is just a Managed Care solution that foregoes the other methods of therapy for a simple pill. Just as Conrad pointed out, these medications might not be the reason that ADHD is becoming more common, but their existence means there is a managed care option for ADHD symptoms, which means it is more likely that that will be the diagnosis. I also think social forces might play a small part in it as the mom hopes to have a successful son rather than one who struggles to focus and causes disruptions. This might sound silly, but I actually think the increased ADHD diagnoses are a result of expecting too much out of kids too soon, and even adults. I think that technology and the economy are expanding so quickly that we haven’t yet evolved to keep up with it. I think humans evolved to be easily distracted- that way they would notice if they were in danger. But this is all conjecture.

    Conrad, Peter, and Deborah Potter. “From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults: Observations on the Expansion of Medical Categories.” Social Problems 47, no. 4 (2000): 559-82. doi:10.1525/sp.2000.47.4.03x0308v.

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