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ADHD Drugs Prescribed to ‘All Academically Struggling’ Children

Elizabeth Renter
October 12th, 2012
Updated 10/31/2012 at 8:58 pm
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pillsgirl3 235x147 ADHD Drugs Prescribed to ‘All Academically Struggling’ ChildrenThere is a frightening new trend in the medical community: prescribing psychoactive stimulant medication to children from low-income families to boost their academic performance. To be more clear, doctors are actually prescribing ADHD drugs to students who are academically struggling. Here’s the kicker: the kids don’t have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Evening the Scales

One proponent of the trend, Dr. Michael Anderson, says that ADHD is a “made up…excuse” for the real illness, which is a social and educational environment unwilling to spend money on changing the environment and instead opting to change the child. A self-professed “social justice thinker,” Anderson knows that many families cannot afford behavior-based therapy for their children. He sees the practice of issuing Adderall to children without ADHD as “evening the scales a little bit.”

Dr. William Graf, a pediatrician who also sees many children from poor families, has his concerns with the practice. “These children are still in the developmental phase, and we still don’t know how these drugs biologically affect the developing brain.”

When the New York Times tried to contact educators to speak on the topic of ADHD, many resisted interviews and some—like a superintendent of a major school district in California—only spoke anonymously.

“It’s scary to think…how not funding public education to meet the needs of all kids has led to this.”

ADHD Drugs and Dangerous Side Effects

Despite a growing body of knowledge that the drugs in question—like Adderall and Risperdal—cause devastating side effects, prescriptions are on the rise. In 2010 alone, doctors drew up 18 million prescriptions of Adderall. Companies have even been struggling to produce enough ADHD drugs due to the massive increase in prescriptions.

Some of the side effects of ADHD drugs include:

  • Growth suppression
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Seeing people and hearing voices that aren’t there
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Suicidal thoughts

More shameful than the cavalier attitude with which prescriptions are doled out and accepted is that Big Pharma values dollar signs more than the lives of children. Though schools are not blameless, they may be inadequately funded and short-staffed, poorly equipped to deal with societal disadvantages of many of their pupils, or may simply be poorly run.

Diet can Prevent and Help with ADHD

New studies now say, however, that ADHD—if it is indeed not something made-up, as Dr. Anderson suggests—is a largely preventable condition. In example, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital of the Harvard School of Public Health found that children of mothers with high mercury levels after childbirth are 40 to 70 percent more likely to experience ADHD symptoms, but those of mothers who ate lots of fish low in mercury actually decreased their chances of ADHD by 60 percent.

The journal Pediatrics published an analysis of 70 studies, concluding that a diet high in fiber, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids is crucial to a child’s psychological wellbeing. That’s right, simple dietary changes, and not ADHD drugs, can be the answer for children labeled as having ADHD.

Additional Sources:

The New York Times

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  • Paul Kemp

    So much of the education process depends on the child being ready to learn and eager to learn. The argument that kids would become better educated if we paid teachers better and generally spent more on education doesn't fly.

    In the 1950s, teachers taught because they loved it, not mainly for the pay and the perks. We seemed to get a more useful skillset back then. Teachers get paid a lot more now, but I frequently see college grads who can't spell and aren't proficient in English. So, what are taxpayers getting for the money they're spending on education?

    I have met several kids who were placed on Ritalin and Adderall at an early age. They seems seriously messed up even when the drugs were out of their system. The notion of giving kids drugs to raise their IQ sound like the latest marketing ploy by Big Pharma, which together with our U.S. processed food industry created the problem with a heavy vaccination schedule, fluoridated water, soda pop and junk food diet.

    So, the notion of giving children amphetamines to correct the damage our defective diet, anti-intellectual social environment, and profit-driven medical practices have caused is ludicrous. If the child wants an education, turn them loose in a good underused public library.

    When they find what they have a talent for and a desire to do, they can either find a job that interests them or build a business like so many of the billionaire dropouts, like Steve Jobs, Sir Richard Branson(who left school at age 16 to start a business), and Bill Gates, who also didn't do so bad.

    If schools want to do something for kids with learning handicaps, they should correct their nutritional status, not feed them drugs.

  • Guest

    I find it hard to believe the "lack of funding" for education is at issue. The state of Washington has a statewide average class size of 27 students. The annual cost per classroom is approximately $225,000. In a truly private, voluntary education system this amount would be more than sufficient to provide materials, facilities and instruction to kids.
    The psychotropic drugs are given to kids to help facilitate the state control and indoctrination of the young mind. It is child abuse and anyone that advocates for dispensing these drugs to children should be incarcerated. Making the argument that these brain altering drugs are justified due to lack of funding is simply wrong.

  • lisa

    Processed foods? Vaccines?

  • erik

    My child