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Pay Attention to Attention Deficit Treatment Drugs

Drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have become popular as "school grade enhancers" and pose a risk to our children.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder beginning in childhood which is characterized by hyperactivity, inattention and impulsive actions.  

Treatments are available, but involve the use of strong medications which need careful monitoring and oversight. Over the past few years, there has been increasing concern that the medications are being used inappropriately by teenagers in order to improve their academic performance even in the absence of a diagnosis of ADHD.

In its June 11, 2012 edition, the New York Times focused on this problem of increasing concern in an article titled “Risky Rise of the Good Grade Pill."

Concern regarding a possible diagnosis of ADHD may be raised by parents or teachers who notice one or more of the classic symptoms. Hyperactivity is usually observed in the pre-school years and consists of excessive fidgetiness, difficulty staying still, and the need for a child to constantly be running and moving.

By adolescence, these symptoms may no longer be overt or external, but rather be characterized by a mind which is restless and unable to concentrate.  Impulsive behavior is seen when children cannot wait their turn, interrupt friends or classmates, or blurt out answers. Inattention may involve poor concentration, underperformance at school, or poor attention to detail.

Any parent who reviews these symptoms is likely to say that their children suffer from one or all three!! In this lies one of the challenges; symptoms need to be persistent and prevalent, and interfere with the child’s functioning and well-being, in order to lead to a diagnosis. The evaluation of a child in whom there is a concern for ADHD is complex, and often requires multiple office visits and specialty referral.

The first medication option is usually from the category of “stimulants”. In the properly selected patient, and with careful physician oversight and titration, the medications can be of great help to children, improving school performance and peer interaction. However, improperly used and without medical supervision, these medications carry a high risk of addiction.

Unfortunately, as the NY Times reported in its story, the word is out among high school and college students that these medications can improve focus, enhance memory and lead to better grades. As many as 15 to 40 percent of high achieving students have reported using these drugs, without regard to their serious and even life threatening side effects.

As parents and community leaders it is important to make sure our children and students know that these medications are not simply “super vitamins”, but are dangerous and addictive if used incorrectly. If there is a concern about ADHD as a diagnosis, or about a connection between behavioral issues and school grades, your child should be seen by his/her pediatrician for a full evaluation.

And, in the pressure filled world in which our children are growing up, they need to understand happiness and fulfillment do not require straight A’s and academic perfection, but rather doing their best and in taking pride in their efforts.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Patrick Smith June 12, 2012 at 08:40 AM
This is what we have become.
Claudine June 12, 2012 at 01:50 PM
My child is 5 years old and is on the spectrum and I have adhd and it is rampant in my family. My child also has scattered developmental delays. I put her on a form of ritalin a month ago. The very first day she came home from school with not only clear speach, but full sentances! Normally she is unintellagable and says at most 3 to 4 word sentances. The entire afternoon we had full conversations! Something we were never able to do! She did not speak until she was 3 and has been receiving services since she was 19 months old. My child has scored very low on many tests and her iq is lower than what it should be. I've been saying adhd may be playing a huge component with regards to her issues. If she cannot concentrate long enough to hear how words are formed, how can she say a word? How can she learn to count to 10? So now with her on medication, she is improving immensly. While I don't like the fact she has to take medication, I feel that for her, it's the best thing at the present time. Too many children get help at the third grade level when in reality, maybe they need it much sooner and for my child, waiting could have impeded her ability to actually learn and come third grade, she may be very far behind when she didn't need to be. For us, it works. For my child it's opening doors to a typical childhood.
Claudine June 12, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Also I have to add, my child is involved with sports. Getting her to leave the house (she is a homebody) and go is torture. But on ritalin, her mind slows down, she understands that ok we go play a game. It has helped calm some of her tantrums (when she cannot express herself or is introduced to new things she gets very difficult) and enabled her to finally make friends and have playdates and begin to have a normal childhood. These are all things she was unable to do prior to ritalin. For the first time in her 5 years she is conversing with typical children, taking turns with regards to play, engaging other children in play. Playing on a team and liking it. She is finally reading (she has a sight vocabulary). Her mind slowed down enough for my child to take in what typical children take for granted. She is able to learn for the 1st time in her life. I'm very unhappy that other methods failed and that she has to be medicated. But maybe that won't be forever. She can finally learn and it is giving her confidence she never had. So for now and hopefully not forever it works for us. It's finally giving her a chance at a typical life. Not one where she is struggling to be like typical children. That means a lot to a parent. She is starting to excel and who knows, after kindergarten a typical class and all of this will be a bad memory.
Eileen Coles June 20, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I strongly urge anyone with concerns about ADHD to familiarize themselves with Dr. Thom Hartmann. His book, "The Edison Gene: ADHD And The Gift Of The Hunter Child" is a must-read. Hartmann, who himself has ADHD as well as his two sons, has learned to channel his so-called "disorder" into a recipe for success. He has a PhD in Psychology. He has founded three successful businesses. He is a NY Times award winning best selling author on subjects ranging from ADHD to political science to philosophy. He is an extremely successful talk radio host. As someone with ADHD myself, it is not merely Thom's success that impresses me so much as the way he captures the true nature of ADHD and enables others to understand it. I've been on Dexidrine and Ritalin in my time and I agree with Hartmann that medication, as much as it makes things convenient (and profitable!) for others, is not a real solution for this "problem" and as the blog author notes, can actually cause more problems than they solve.

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