Overmedicating children with ADHD

This subject has always been of interest to me for more reasons than one.  Although this CNN article, “Ritalin debate: Are We Over Medicating” is several years old, I still find it to be extremely relevant and a valid argument today.

There is currently no objective diagnostic tool for the disorder, so the diagnosis often comes down to a judgment call. Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics published guidelines recommending that children suspected of ADHD have at least 2 to 3 visits with a physician, and that the physician solicit additional information from parents and teachers.

But Winkler says, in reality, too often it’s the teacher who’s making the diagnosis.

“In some situations, even parents were told if they didn’t place their child on a psychotropic drug, their child wouldn’t be able to attend school. And I just found this horrendous,” she said.

I’m a firm believer that things such as counseling and behavior modification should be used before we resort to medication. I hate the idea of children being prescribed such medications prior to exhausting other resources. One of the things that irritates me the most is that it is more often than not male children who are being diagnosed with ADD and ADHD. What ever happened to letting boys be boys? Sure, there are some instances where they need to be reigned in and taught how to behave, but a little rambunctiousness never really hurt anyone. Teachers need to realize that not every student can fit into their perfect little angelic mode of behavior. Just because a student is a little more hyper than another or can not fully focus does not mean he or she should be medicated at the first sign of this behavior. Parents need to take an active approach and work with their children to teach them acceptable and unacceptable behavior. I have a 10 year old cousin who was prescribed Ritalin a little over two years ago. He does not need the medication, his parents need to take a more active approach at parenting.  His mom is so flighty she has decided that she will only give him the medication during the school week. He doesn’t get it on the weekends or during school breaks. My opinion is this: either take the kid off the medication completely, or give it to him as prescribed. Don’t pick and choose when he should or shouldn’t have it.
Prior to moving here last summer, I was an assistant manager for Walgreen’s. Having this job meant I also had to be a licenesed pharmacy assistant. I learned a ton at the job. It amazed me to see just how many children are taking medication for ADHD and other behavioral issues. I really wanted to ask the parents if they knew what they were doing to their kids, or whether they had even tried other alternatives before choosing to medicate them. Due to things such as advertisements in print and in the media, many patients are now asking for drugs by name and attempting to self diagnose themselves and their children. It seems inapprorpriate to me for a patient to ask their doctor to be prescribed a certain medication just because they’ve seen it on TV and think it will cure their problems. And by no means is this any different than it is for parents and their children. Contrary to their belief, parents don’t always know best! This is when the physicians need to step up and educate the parents on the side effects medication can give their children. What ever happened to a little unconditional love and attention as an effective parenting tool?