This first article from Psychology Today" points out that in the U .S. nine percent of children take stimulant medication. This compares to half a percent in France. This article contends this is due to the different definitions of the disease in the two countries. In the U.S. it is considered the result of brain function; while in France the focus is on psycho/social dynamics. This different concept leads to looking for underlying causes for behavioral issues, and the use of therapy to look at and resolve these issues. The differing result is psychotherapy vs medications as the first treatment choice for this illness. The article contends the more holistic approach of the French allows for consideration of dietary effects. Also different approaches to child-rearing may contribute to the difference.
On the other hand, other articles contend the difference is lack of awareness or diagnosis outside of the United States, however, the rate of ADHD seems to be similar to many other countries. Another idea is that in the U.S. we symptomize behaviors, so as to pass responsibility.
This last article indicates that governmental restrictions around the use of ADHD medication in France might cause much of the difference. He points out that in France it takes over two years to be diagnosed with ADHD. Also prescription of stimulant medication has to be started in a hospital setting. With different regulations, it is evident why there would be a differnce in the prescription rate.
I think all of these ideas have some merit. In working with children, I have seem some who were severely effected by ADHD symptoms, and to deprive them of medication would have been catastrophic. However, it is important to look at holistic health, and use this concept as a spring board to improve the lives of these children, without neglecting those who are truly in need. Maybe medication should not always be the first answer.