ADHD Meds Used to Help Children Struggling in School - WIth or Without ADHD

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Some doctors are prescribing medications for ADHD, such as Adderall, to help children do better in school - whether they have ADHD or not according to an article in the New York Times.


    Stimulant medications help those with ADHD focus and pay attention in class. They also help to control hyperactivity and impulsiveness. For many years, there has been a passionate debate on whether these medications were necessary or if we were “drugging” children in order to make them conform to our standards. During this time, the debate usually included whether ADHD was a real diagnosis or something made up by pharmaceutical companies to sell more drugs and give parents an excuse or a way to control an unruly child. But that argument has mostly been put to rest. ADHD is seen as a legitimate and real diagnosis that impacts anywhere approximately 9.4 percent of the population according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is now accepted that ADHD is not a childhood problem but often continues into adulthood, causing problems in work performance and relationships.

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    According to the article, Dr. Michael Anderson, a pediatrician in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta, doesn’t believe in ADHD; he believes it is a made-up diagnosis. Even so, he prescribes Adderall and other medications commonly used to help control ADHD symptoms to low-income children who are struggling in school. Dr. Anderson’s argument is that “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.” [1]


    The rational, it seems, is that school districts in low-income districts can’t afford the resources needed to help children succeed. There may be 40 plus students in a classroom, making it difficult, if not impossible, for a struggling child to receive individual attention and help. Families in these districts may not be able to afford tutoring services or other methods of helping their children to increase their grades. This puts these children at a disadvantage for the rest of their lives and doctors like Dr. Anderson believe they are giving these children an opportunity to succeed in school they may not otherwise have.


    Dr. Anderson isn’t the only doctor that believes ADHD medications can and should be used to help struggling students in low-income areas. Dr. William Graf, a pediatrician in New Haven, CT, thinks that families should be able to choose whether Adderall can provide a benefit to their child, even without ADHD, but believes the possible side-effects should be closely monitored. Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a psychiatrist in Cambridge, MA, indicated that this is happening “more and more.”


    But many experts don’t believe this is the right answer. They worry that, because the long-term effects are still questionable and because side-effects can include delayed growth, increased blood pressure, increased heart rates, low appetite, sleep disturbances and, in some children, can cause psychotic episodes. These medications also have the potential to become addictive and because of this are classified as a Schedule II Controlled Substance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Giving children with ADHD these medications has become well accepted and studies have shown children with ADHD can benefit greatly. But in these cases, the medication is given for a specific medical condition. Giving the medications for economic reasons may cause other long-term problems, such as dependency. And many people with ADHD fear that using medication, and purposely mis-diagnosing children in order to give them medication, undermines the diagnosis and treatment when ADHD does actually exist.


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    What do you think?


    References: “ADHD in the News: Long Acting Liquid Quillivant, Mercury and ADHD, Adderall for Bad Schools?” 2012, Oct. 10, Dr. Kenny Handelman


    [1] “Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School,” 2012, Oct. 9, Alan Schwarz, The New York Times

Published On: October 16, 2012