Some doctors are prescribing stimulants like Adderall, medicines created to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, to low-income kids who are doing badly in school, a new New York Times article says.
Michael Anderson, the doctor that Alan Schwarz interviewed for the article, says these stimulant medications help kids stay focused, decrease their acting up in class, and improve their grades. The article says:
“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, 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.”
Dr. Anderson is one of the more outspoken proponents of an idea that is gaining interest among some physicians. They are prescribing stimulants to struggling students in schools starved of extra money — not to treat A.D.H.D., necessarily, but to boost their academic performance.
Some people are definitely worried by this trend to chemically modify childhood. These drugs are Schedule II Controlled Substances, which means they have high potential to be abused and they may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. Their long-term effects (especially when started during early childhood) aren’t well understood, either.
Anderson does make sure to rule out other diagnoses before starting a trial of these stimulants, Schwarz notes.
“These children are still in the developmental phase, and we still don’t know how these drugs biologically affect the developing brain,” William Graf told The New York Times. “There’s an obligation for parents, doctors and teachers to respect the authenticity issue, and I’m not sure that’s always happening.”
An earlier version of this post referred to Anderson’s prescriptions of these drugs as indiscriminate, but on review that choice of words was too harsh and the wording was changed to reflect that.
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