Prescribing ADHD Drugs to Children as a Study Aid is Unethical

by | Mar 15, 2013

child 5
Stimulant drugs are routinely prescribed these days for children who can’t sit still in class or who can’t concentrate and focus on their work.  Many doctors will be overly quick to diagnose ADHD and write a prescription.  If this wasn’t bad enough, it has now gone one step further.  Some doctors and parents are willing to give children ADHD drugs solely as a study aid and without regard to anything else.  This is grossly negligent and unethical.
In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Michael Anderson, a pediatrician in Georgia, was quick to admit that he prescribes Adderall to his low-income patients struggling in elementary school solely to help them with their studies.  He thinks ADHD is “made up,” but will use the diagnosis to solve the problem of poor academic performance in inadequate schools.  He even goes so far to as to say that he doesn’t have a choice, as schools lacking funds aren’t able to help the student so we have to “modify” the child.  That basically means he thinks the only option is to drug kids to solve a problem.  ADHD drugs are not the answer to under-funded schools.  
It is unconscionable that a pediatrician can think this is the right thing to do.  What is even worse is that he must not be aware of the serious adverse side effects of Adderall and that is a glaring outpoint in itself.   He is prescribing it like it’s comparable to aspirin when it is a dangerous mind-altering drug.  Not being educated in the risks of taking ADHD drugs bars him from passing important information onto parents so they can make an informed decision.  People trust their doctors to be an authority and this doctor has failed to give them all the facts.  
Another doctor, who is a child mental health services researcher, has a similar view.  He claims that since there is no investment into effective non-pharmaceutical interventions, psychiatrists are forced to use psychotropic drugs as their only option.  This is a very narrow irresponsible viewpoint!  Beyond the heavy influence of pharmaceutical companies themselves, psychiatrists could step outside of their drug-oriented profession.  Drugs are just an excuse to go the easy way out.  It is true that some public schools can no longer help all their students.  It is true that many families cannot afford tutoring or other types of help.  This does not mean that ADHD drugs are “pragmatic” or “reliable” to achieve success in school.  
The doctor could research outside the scope of drugs before handing out a prescription just to improve grades.   The doctor could give the child a very thorough medical exam to see if anything is wrong.  Why has it not occurred to him that perhaps these children are eating something that in turns makes them feel a certain way, which in turn directly or indirectly inhibits academic performance?  
This propensity to drug young children to be successful in school is a bad indicator of what society has become.  We have evolved into a pill-popping drug-oriented society looking for a quick fix to solve any problem.  It has become convenient for doctors and parents to drug their children without looking into other options.  This type of thinking is not in the best interest of the welfare of the child or future generations.
On the positive side, a child psychiatrist in Massachussetts sees this situation for what it really is.  She says we are putting children in a chemical straitjacket instead of doing things in other areas.  A pediatrician and child neurologist in New Haven is also concerned.  He states that it is not known how these drugs biologically affect the child’s developing brain.  He says parents, doctors and teachers need to respect this developmental stage and don’t necessarily do so.  
One set of parents in particular did not only disregard their children’s development but are also blind to the risks of ADHD drugs.  The Rocaforts live in Georgia and have four children, ages nine to twelve and all are patients of Dr. Anderson.  Quintn and Perry, both eleven, took Adderall for five years to treat ADHD.  Then Quintn started getting into fights because he was seeing people and hearing voices that weren’t real.  This is a recognized side effect of Adderall.  
Quintn then admitted to being suicidal.  Instead of weaning the child off the drug to rid Quintn of the side effects, Dr. Anderson recommended putting him in a local psychiatric hospital for a week and changed his drug to Risperdal.  Risperdal is an antipsychotic, a stronger psychotropic drug that also has life-threatening potential side effects like Adderall.  It typically is prescribed to treat schizophrenia and bipolar. 
However, Quintn himself said he takes his medication to help with schoolwork and so he doesn’t have “attitudes,” which have lead to actions that disrespected his parents and made his teachers mad.  This clearly implies that Risperdal is being used as a disciplinary tool to manage his “attitudes.”  
What is worse is that despite Quintn’s psychotic side effects caused by an ADHD drug, these parents still decided to put both their twelve year old daughter, Alexis and their nine year old son, Ethan, on Adderall!  Their reasoning was to help with their grades and the father said that Alexis was “a little blah.”  He admits the use is “cosmetic,” but since they are more positive, happy and social, he says why not?   
To additionally put one’s other children on the same drug that caused your own son to hear and see imaginary things is beyond logical comprehension and points to neglect!  Clearly these parents are blind to the fact that ADHD drugs are not like antibiotics and think their children have nothing to lose by taking them.
The truth is the exact opposite.  Their children have everything to lose.  The DEA classifies Adderall as a Schedule II controlled substance which means it is as addictive as cocaine, which is in the same class.  Children can wind up taking this or other ADHD drugs into adulthood or are likely to move onto other kinds of substance abuse.  Alarming side effects of Adderall can be increased blood pressure, aggression, depression, psychosis, seizures, mood swings, panic attacks, stroke, tics, tremors, stunted growth, a heart attack or even death.  Obviously, these are not to be taken lightly.
It is time that parents slow down their lives and really find out what is going on with their children.  They need to examine the wide spectrum of things that can cause poor academic performance and not rush to get the pills.  Otherwise, parents can be led down the wrong path with disastrous results.  
Teachers without other resources can wrongly push for the ADHD diagnosis and drugs to solve their problem.  This is evidenced in a major California school district where the number of diagnoses of ADHD went up as school funding went down.  This basically conveys that it is okay to target the child as the problem when it’s the school’s inability to provide full services.  Narrow-minded doctors contribute to this situation by automatically prescribing ADHD drugs instead of finding real solutions.  
Real solutions are examining the child’s diet.  Dr. Lidy Pelsser of the ADHD Research Center in the Netherlands said symptoms warrant looking for a cause.  She found that sixty-four percent of children diagnosed with ADHD actually have a hypersensitivity to certain foods.  Eliminating the foods which are the culprit will return the child’s behavior to normal if the diet is followed.  Teachers and doctors that became aware of this were skeptical at first, but when faced with facts found it miraculous.  
Lacking ability to focus and concentrate on schoolwork is not a reason to take ADHD drugs.  ADHD is not a proven disease but only some symptoms.  Even Dr. Anderson says that ADHD is codified only to make something completely subjective look objective.  In addition, there is no study that proves that ADHD drugs improve academic performance.    
It is possible that a child is having trouble in school because he is emotionally upset, immature, undisciplined, or has been exposed to toxins.
There is an endless list of possibilities.  ADHD drugs don’t benefit a child and certainly don’t teach any skills in dealing with life.  Do the right thing and fully informed on the FDA warnings regarding ADHD drugs and the alternative treatments available.


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