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Stop Prescribing ADHD Medication for Healthy Children

Update Date: Mar 14, 2013 10:39 AM EDT
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A pill that promises to calm down children and help them focus in school may seem like an answer for some parents. In fact, parents have asked for this prescription ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) drug, known as Ritalin and Adderall, for their healthy children hoping that it would help their children excel in academics. It is due to this trend that doctors and neurologists from the American Academy of Neurology felt the need to remind physicians, pediatricians, and other doctors to stop overprescribing the drug to healthy children.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ADHD is a mental disorder that presents in children and can last into adulthood, and hinders them from staying focused, controlling their behavior, and stopping hyperactive behavior. Drugs like Ritalin and Adderall act as a psychostimulant and calms children down. Due to this effect, parents and young adults, especially those in college have been abusing this drug as a study tool even though ADHD may not be present. The Centers for Decease Control and Prevention stated that in 2008, an estimated three million of these drugs were prescribed within a year, and this number continues to grow. From 2002 to 2012, the number of prescriptions for children from 12 to 17 rose by 47 percent. The top prescription for that age group according to a June 2012 Pediatrics statistic is methylphenidate, which exist generically or as Ritalin or Concerta.

Taking the drug as a study tool is not safe and can lead to drug abuse, the neurologists stressed. Although these drugs can help a child deal with the symptoms of ADHD, the effects of the drug on healthy children in the long run are unknown. Therefore, this report, published in Neurology reminds doctors about the ethical, social, legal, and development issues behind prescribing these drugs so easily to healthy children. The report also stresses doctors to refuse this prescription despite any persistent requests from parents if the children are healthy.

The researchers also noted that the increase in the number of prescriptions could be due to the fact that there are fewer stigmas behind ADHD and more screenings. More parents today are willing to get a behavioral analysis for their children even though nothing might be wrong, which is can lead to misdiagnoses. Parents should ideally avoid using ADHD medications on their healthy children even if their focus in school becomes better. 

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