Observations Reality Check

Too much medicine, not enough mirth

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e7116 (Published 31 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7116
  1. Ray Moynihan, author and senior research fellow, Bond University, Australia
  1. RayMoynihan{at}bond.edu.au

It is 10 years since a BMJ special theme issue in 2002 posed the question “Too much medicine?”

If there’s to be a global campaign to wind back overmedicalisation and iatrogenic illness, surely the best strategies include comedy and satire. The latest outbreak of satirical sanity comes from the US television comedian Stephen Colbert, who recently promoted the idea of “meducation,” a plan to use attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs to lift the school performance of healthy children.

Reinforcing the truism that truth is stranger than fiction, Colbert’s skit was inspired by actual comments reported the day before. “I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” a paediatrician, Michael Anderson, told the New York Times, explaining why he prescribed amphetamines to healthy kids. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”1

While childbirth, menopause, and ageing are strong contenders, ADHD is arguably now the …

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