There 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.