You've heard of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, now diagnosed—and some fear overdiagnosed—in 6 million US kids. Now get ready for ADHD's daydreamy cousin, "sluggish cognitive tempo." The New York Times reports that the concept of SCT is gaining traction among researchers and drug companies such as Eli Lilly, as evidenced by the 136 pages devoted to it in the January issue of the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Who might have SCT? Think kids prone to daydreaming or staring off into space, according to an earlier article in Medscape. Other characteristic symptoms include being "mentally foggy" or "easily confused," along with lethargy and "slow mental processing." Leading SCT researchers think 2 million kids could be affected, though that figure includes 1 million kids currently diagnosed with ADHD, notes the Times.
Those numbers, of course, could mean big business for Big Pharma, which could theoretically tweak existing ADHD drugs to treat SCT. And, yes, plenty of skepticism abounds. “We’re seeing a fad in evolution: Just as ADHD has been the diagnosis du jour for 15 years or so, this is the beginning of another,” complains a psychiatry professor at Duke. “This is a public health experiment on millions of kids.” A UCLA professor similarly urges restraint in the medical community because some parents will be sure to embrace the diagnosis and demand meds. At this point, lots more research is needed before SCT could be officially recognized as a distinct disorder of its own, but a doctor at the Medical University of South Carolina who co-authored a study calls it an "exciting new frontier in psychiatry." She hopes, however, that a "less pejorative" name than "sluggish cognitive tempo" eventually emerges. (Click to read about a recent study that links older fathers to a heightened risk of ADHD.)