"That is, an ADHD diagnosis might exempt a low-achieving youth from lowering the district's overall achievement ranking"—thus ensuring that the district not incur federal sanctions for low scores.

The Centers for Disease Control first attempted to tally ADHD cases in 1997 and found that about 3 percent of American schoolchildren had received the diagnosis, a number that seemed roughly in line with past estimates.

But after that year, the number of diagnosed cases began to increase by at least 3 percent every year.

Boys are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed as girls—15.1 percent to 6.7 percent.

By high school, even more boys are diagnosed—nearly one in five. And overall, of the children in this country who are told they suffer from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, two thirds are on prescription drugs.

If you have a son who has been diagnosed, it's more than likely that he has been prescribed a stimulant—the most famous brand names are Ritalin and Adderall; newer ones include Vyvanse and Concerta—to deal with the symptoms of that psychiatric condition.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies stimulants as Schedule II drugs, defined as having a "high potential for abuse" and "with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence." (According to a University of Michigan study, Adderall is the most abused brand-name drug among high school seniors.) In addition to stimulants like Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, and Concerta, Schedule II drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, Demerol, and Oxy Contin.

One study reported fears of being harmed by other children and thoughts of suicide. A little boy who would do anything to make you happy.

Now imagine that little boy—your little boy—alone in his bed in the night, eyes wide with fear, afraid to move, a frightening and unfamiliar voice echoing in his head, afraid to call for you. Now imagine that he is suffering like this because of a mistake.

They found that among children in many low-income areas (the districts most "targeted" by the bill), ADHD diagnoses increased from 10 percent to 15.3 percent—"a huge rise of 53 percent" in just four years.

"I don't think there's an epidemic of new cases," says Mario Saltarelli, a neurologist and the senior vice-president of clinical development at Shire, which manufactures Adderall and Vyvanse.

Most shocking is Hinshaw's examination of the implications of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which gave incentives to states whose students scored well on standardized tests.