Ask the Experts

Can Teens and Young Adults Fake ADHD?

“I’ve heard about young adults and teens faking ADHD symptoms to get stimulant medications. Is it possible to fake attention deficit?”

A few empirical studies – five or six that I am aware of – have looked at people faking ADHD symptoms. They all concluded that it is easy to do. However, these studies used checklists and neuro-psych measures to determine the diagnosis. I am not aware of any studies that looked at teens or young adults faking an ADHD diagnosis with an experienced clinician performing a thorough clinical assessment.

I have seen patients over the years who thought they had ADHD, only to have the condition ruled out after a full evaluation. I have had only one person “looking for” an ADHD diagnosis. He wanted his primary care physician to prescribe stimulants. I was able to determine that he didn’t have ADHD. The big problem, as I see it, is that prescriptions are written by PCPs who have little or no clinical experience in diagnosing or assessing ADHD.