Dissenting doctors warn that ADHD is overdiagnosed and overmedicated in Australian children and adults

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The local network’s views on ADHD are at odds with the dominant perspective of medical colleges representing general practitioners and psychiatrists, as well as psychologists’ associations, which said the research needed more support, including for diagnostic assessments.

Several people also advocated for people with ADHD to have access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Jureidini said ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity and impulsivity can have different causes – from language disorders to violent environments – and require different treatment methods.

“It’s a flattening and oversimplification: ‘if you have these symptoms, you have this disorder,'” he said in an interview.

“By treating and suppressing the symptoms, you can actually contribute to missing something very important, whether it’s something physical, environmental or interpersonal.”

He said practitioners must be “incredibly careful when giving psychotropic medications to children.”

Labor MP and pediatrician Dr Mike Freelander also raised concerns that the Senate report would “give inappropriate attention to medical management”.

“I am concerned about the overmedicalization of a host of issues associated with the diagnosis of ADHD, (if there is any) importance in focusing on the social determinants of health and education,” he said.

A 2019 Deloitte report, commissioned by the Australian ADHD Professionals Association, estimates that around 280,000 children and 530,000 adults in Australia have the neurodevelopmental disorder.


Dr. John Kramer, chairman of ADHD and neurodiversity at the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, has said he did not believe there was overdiagnosis or overmedication because prescribers had to go through rigorous processes that protected against misdiagnosis.

Jureidini said the public debate about ADHD was asymmetrical, and he believed the push for NDIS access could serve professions that could benefit from that funding.

“There are fewer people on my side of the argument. People say we are fringe dwellers and skeptics, but we have no results in this process. We are just trying to protect people from inappropriate prescribing and labeling,” he said.

Jureidini said he and other skeptical colleagues who are members of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists were not involved in the development of the college’s submission. “There was a complete marginalization of dissent,” he said.

However, the chairman of the college’s ADHD Network, Dr Karuppiah Jagadheesan, said the entry was developed in collaboration with a wide range of experts.

“(They) include a good balance of both academics and physicians who are experts in treating ADHD and have experience seeing patients with ADHD on a regular basis,” he said.

“There is broad agreement among psychiatrists who specialize in the treatment of ADHD that the condition is significantly under-recognized and under-treated in the community.”

He said the council emphasized the importance of multimodal treatments, including both pharmaceutical and non-medical interventions.

The chair of the inquiry, Greens senator Janet Rice, said the terms of reference were broad and set by a cross-party committee.


“The committee heard evidence from a wide range of organizations and experts, including the Critical Psychiatry Network Australasia, and took into account the breadth of views expressed,” she said.

“The fact that (their) opinions happen to be in the minority is not due to the research; rather, the reality that their views differ from those of the vast majority of experts and people with ADHD who have provided testimony and submissions.”

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