Adult ADHD Symptoms Faked by About 1 in 4 Patients: Study

April 27, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015
ADHD medication available is mostly stimulant-based with a low prescription value. For example, Ritalin costs $400 via prescription compared with $4,000 on the streets. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ADHD medication available is mostly stimulant-based with a low prescription value. For example, Ritalin costs $400 via prescription compared with $4,000 on the streets. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults was found to be faked by about one in four people tested during a five-year study, according to findings published in the journal The Clinical Neuropsychologist.

Only around five percent of adults are estimated to have ADHD with symptoms including difficulty with concentration, forgetfulness, and impulsive behavior, according to medical site WebMD.

Neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Marshall at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), Minneapolis led the study, which examined how ADHD is diagnosed in clinics, and found that 22 percent of patients were exaggerating or even faking ADHD symptoms to their doctor after Internet research and practice at imitating symptoms.

“The problem is widespread enough that some doctors refuse to even evaluate patients [for ADHD],” said Marshall in a HCMC press release. “Students afraid of failing courses in college or graduate school might look for an ADHD diagnosis to get disability accommodations like private testing, longer test times, or special courses to help improve their grades.”

ADHD medication available is mostly stimulant-based with a low prescription value. For example, Ritalin costs $400 via prescription compared with $4,000 on the streets, according to the press release. For some users, this is a cheap alternative to abusing drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.

“Since ADHD drugs can also increase studying and testing performance in people without the disorder, these drugs are bought and sold on the black market for the same purposes.”

The researchers came up with effective measures to use during evaluations, which help avoid false positive ADHD diagnoses, based around cognitive testing, behavioral rating scales, and a clinical interview.

“These new measures will also help diagnose adults with ADHD who really need medication to manage their symptoms,” Marshall said.