The issue of prescribing ADHD drugs to kids has surfaced once more in the news. Two reports that look at new and substantially different aspects of that practice have arisen independently and show facets of the situation with widely divergent ends.
The first report is of a US doctor who is prescribing the attention deficit drug Adderall to children from underprivileged backgrounds that do not have the affliction. It is the contention of Dr. Michael Anderson that for the kids in the poor quality educational system available to the less fortunate in his Canton, Georgia practice, these drugs will help level the playing field. The drugs, apparently, are to make up for a lack of adequate nutrition, direction and care in the child’s life.
“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” claims Anderson, who was described in a New York Times piece as “a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta”. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid,” Anderson was quoted as saying.
The doctor describes himself in the article as a “social justice thinker” who is “evening the scales a little bit.” He indicated the kids he sees that are having trouble with schoolwork are basically “mismatched with their environment”. Because other approaches to increasing cognitive skills usually involves tutoring, counseling or extra courses, solutions struggling families can ill afford, Anderson believes providing the drug is the most efficient and practical course to give these children the mental tools they will need to succeed in school and beyond.
“People who are getting A’s and B’s, I won’t give it to them,” he said.
“My kids don’t want to take it, but I told them, ‘These are your grades when you’re taking it, this is when you don’t,’ and they understood,” said Jaqueline Williams, who agreed to be part of the doctor’s program. She noted that, being on social services, the drugs are paid for by the medical system and does not come out of her own pocket like the other solutions would. Still, for many, the thought of medicated children who are not suffering from an illness is a leap in a rather uncomfortable direction.
No matter how you feel about providing poor kids with “performance enhancing drugs”, you should be aware of another report that is now circulating that has been highlighted by the Toronto Star. The paper had put out feelers, looking for parents who have had children experience bad reactions to the ADHD drugs on the market. The newspaper was inundated with over 600 responses. Tales of suicidal tots were described in heart-wrenching detail.
One woman who was giving the ADHD drug Vyvance to her seven year-old daughter, to treat the condition, claimed her little girl would go on unstoppable crying jags. When the mother tried to take her little one out for a ride on her bike to try to work off some of the emotional outburst, her daughter’s confusion and rage became worse.
Collier recounted in the Star report what happened next.
“She screamed at me,” Collier related. “She said, ‘I want to die.’”
Then a vehicle approached them as they were going along the quiet street.
“She looked at me and she said, ‘I’m going to ride my bike into that car.’ And then she said to me, ‘You don’t care if I live or die.’ I literally had to restrain her. I took her off of the drug.”
So, on the one hand we have a force that is encouraging psychoactive drugs for minors, while on the other, a warning about some of the side effects of these very same drugs.
This parenting gig is getting harder every day.