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The number of Attention Deficit Hyper­ac­tivity Dis­order diag­noses has increased by nearly 42 percent in the past eight years, according to Psy­chiatry Today. And yet, there is no apparent envi­ron­mental or physical expla­nation for this spike.

In high school, I assumed that having ADHD was as common as wearing braces. Since leaving my sub­urban bubble, however, I realize that not everybody reaches for Ritalin before going to class or cramming for an exam.

It’s cer­tainly pos­sible that stu­dents are beginning to rec­ognize a problem that already existed, but didn’t have a name. Tech­nology could also be ampli­fying the issue. But in my expe­rience, ADHD diag­noses are often the result  of overzealous parents seeking to give their child a leg up on the rest of their peers.

American Soci­o­logical Review reported that “stu­dents are 30 percent more likely to have a pre­scription filled for stim­ulant med­ication during the school year than they are during the summer.” But ADHD is a year-round dis­order, so the number of pre­scrip­tions filled should be static. This sug­gests an alter­native motive: Parents are seeking aca­demic advan­tages for their children — and alle­vi­ating them­selves of the burden of working with children on homework and test prepa­ra­tions.

Moreover, the number of ADHD cases are not con­sistent across social classes. Michael Petrilli, pres­ident of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an edu­cation think tank, said stu­dents from higher-income areas expe­rience a dif­ferent kind of aca­demic pressure.

“Affluent kids and their fam­ilies are worried about the SAT — they’re worried about getting into elite col­leges,” Petrilli told USA Today.

If children are per­forming poorly in school, it’s not uncommon for parents to seek out a medical jus­ti­fi­cation. Grades are a reflection of hard work and and, some­times, genetic intel­li­gence. This is a hard pill for some parents to swallow, espe­cially if a child’s grades are dropping.

Stu­dents, under extreme pressure from their parents, might prefer to buy into this nar­rative as well. They’d rather claim they suffer from ADHD than take per­sonal respon­si­bility.

But parents aren’t the only ones to blame. The rapid growth of ADHD pre­scrip­tions has spread as stu­dents notice that their friends on med­ica­tions have an easier time studying and con­cen­trating. I noticed this in my high school: Even those who didn’t struggle with classes felt dis­ad­van­taged.

This wide­spread use of med­ication creates an imbal­anced playing field. Stu­dents who truly suffer from ADHD  need addi­tional time to take stan­dardized tests, mod­ified classroom set­tings, and spe­cific med­ication just to get them near the same level of learning as other stu­dents. When these other stu­dents reap the same rewards, ADHD stu­dents wind up in the same place they began.

Before jumping to a clinical diag­nosis, parents and stu­dents alike should look else­where to improve schol­arship. Why not start with improving study habits, note-taking, and time man­agement? Often­times, small life changes can do more good than medical pre­scrip­tions.

Allison Schuster is a sophomore studying pol­itics.