It’s Not ADHD! It’s Slow Cognitive Tempo!

It’s Not ADHD! It’s Slow Cognitive Tempo!
Another new disorder spurs debate and controversy

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Dr. Russell Barkley, who’s been a highly influential leader in the field of ADHD now says he’s discovered another disorder called Slow Cognitive Tempo (SCT). Here are some of the symptoms: daydreaming, lethargy, slow mental processing. As many as 2 million children may be affected says Dr. Barkley regarding his work to help drug manufacturer Eli Lily identify this new disorder.

With the epidemic of diagnoses over the last few years, it would seem that ADHD may be over diagnosed. In light of that spigot being turned down a little, the pharmaceutical companies are sponsoring research to see if something else may be lurking in the dark corners of daydreaming children’s minds.

Indeed, to justify the new SCT disorder, The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology published 136 pages of its January issue to research describing the illness. If it can gain status as a legitimate disorder, then medicine can be prescribed for it. This is a common process for defining a disorder albeit, in this case, the proponents haven’t even decided on the full range of symptoms yet. But that hasn’t stopped them from diagnosing it.

From the NY Times:

“Dr. McBurnett [papers on SCT published in Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology] recently conducted a clinical trial funded and overseen by Eli Lilly that investigated whether proposed symptoms of sluggish cognitive tempo could be treated with Strattera, the company’s primary A.D.H.D. drug. (One of Strattera’s selling points is that it is not a stimulant like Adderall and Concerta, medications more susceptible to abuse.) His study, published in The Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, concluded, “This is the first study to report significant effects of any medication on S.C.T.”

In light of this, the NY Time also reports:

“We’re seeing a fad in evolution: Just as A.D.H.D. has been the diagnosis du jour for 15 years or so, this is the beginning of another,” said Dr. Allen Frances, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Duke University. “This is a public health experiment on millions of kids.”

It is likely healthy to remain skeptical regarding research from scientists who are profiting from research. Indeed, these researchers are profiting. Again from the NY Times:

“Dr. Barkley, who has said that “S.C.T. is a newly recognized disorder,” also has financial ties to Eli Lilly; he received $118,000 from 2009 to 2012 for consulting and speaking engagements, according to While detailing sluggish cognitive tempo in The Journal of Psychiatric Practice, Dr. Barkley stated that Strattera’s performance on sluggish cognitive tempo symptoms was “an exciting finding.” Dr. Barkley has also published a symptom checklist for mental health professionals to identify adults with the condition; the forms are available for $131.75 apiece from Guilford Press, which funds some of his research.”

As a society, in light of the pressures of school and home, have we forgotten what it’s like to be a child? There is a spectrum to normal human behavior. Daydreaming, distraction, and varying intelligences are all part of the normal human spectrum. Are we simply now issuing diseases for a child or adult who can’t function well in demanding situations? Society cannot medicate its way out of normalcy. Granted, some people may actually have a true disorder, and we must attend to it. However, the likelihood of it being of epidemic proportion is very low. Creating an epidemic is ethically wrong.