Perhaps only in over-medicated America would prescription drugs substitute for education reform. Physicians are giving growing numbers of struggling, low-income elementary school students powerful stimulants such as Adderall to boost their focus and academic performance.
The use of such psychotropic medications, covered by Medicaid, to improve impulse control, listening, and study habits has yielded some positive results. Another generation of poor children who attend inadequate schools should not have to leave school with little prospect for prosperity, just because they live in a society that doesn’t fully recognize the value of investing in their futures.
Still, the less-than-discriminate use of psychotropic drugs for children carries troubling physical and psychological risks, including addiction, higher blood pressure, stunted growth, and, rarely, psychotic episodes.
At the least, the federal government should monitor the administration of stimulants such as Adderall pills and Concerta, and, if necessary, more closely regulate their medical use….
Doctor must ensure that parents know the risks. They should closely monitor side effects and make judgments based on guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics, not gut feelings….
A broader and equally troubling question is whether more pediatricians have concluded, not unreasonably, that other intervention strategies — including tutoring, family counseling, better nutrition, prep classes, and expanded Head Start — are no longer realistic options for poor children. It may not be coincidental that diagnoses for ADHD have gone up as school funding has gone down.
— Distributed by The Associated Press