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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Technologies, social actors and the pharmaceutical industry

Eugenia Bianchi Silvia A. Faraone About the authors

A critical analysis of the farmacologization processes in childhood is presented, from the results of investigations about the use of psychotropic drugs in children. The empirical case of the ADHD and the use of methylphenidate are discussed, emphasizing the role of the pharmaceutical industry, the advances in pharmacological technologies, and the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as core elements in the installation and distribution of such processes. These problems are approached from perspectives that analyze processes of biomedicalization and medicalization, biomedical technologies and the history of pharmacology. Analytical and interpretive methods for processing and analyzing primary and secondary data were used, triangulating 1) specialized national and international literature review, 2) analysis of newspaper articles focusing on the topic, 3) official and professional organizations' numerical data, and 4) analysis of 65 in-depth and group interviews to health professionals. From these interviews, 35 were conducted in two sections, from October to December 2007 and April-June 2008. The remaining 30 were conducted between August 2009 and March 2011. Conclusions include the growth of the diagnosis of ADHD in children in the past two decades, and the expansion of pharmaceutical marketing to non-physicians actors.

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; childhood; methylphenidate; pharmaceutical industry; technologies

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