Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Science, Technology and Society Program


James R. Fleming

Second Advisor

Paul R. Josephson


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Since ADHD was formally recognized by psychiatrists in the US in 1968, knowledge about this condition has spread to many countries, including Vietnam. The US and Vietnam differ significantly in their perception and management of this disorder. ADHD is an “academic disorder” in the US because the intensifying pressure on children to succeed academically is a key factor in the emergence of ADHD, as well as its high diagnosis rates in some states. In contrast, Vietnamese people consider ADHD a developmental disorder of early childhood, apparently because health professionals and laypeople alike often confuse ADHD with autism and speech disorder. Each country also faces distinct problems with ADHD diagnosis and treatment. In the US, ADHD prevalence differs widely between states and demographic groups. In addition, the increasing availability of stimulant medications for ADHD and lack of awareness about their risk of abuse have led to widespread stimulant misuse. In Vietnam, on the contrary, ADHD is a very new condition, so it is likely underdiagnosed due to a shortage of experienced physicians and facilities for diagnosis and treatment. Stimulant supply is severely restricted, and the Vietnamese are much more averse to treating ADHD with medications than Americans, so the main treatments are behavioral therapy and acupuncture. Despite the differences, responses to ADHD have been influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, the history of medicine, and academic pressure in both countries, though with dramatically different results.


ADHD, Vietnam, medical anthropology, overmedication