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Prescribing ADHD Medication Without Diagnosis

October 19, 2012

            I chose to write about an article I found in the New York Times written by Alan Schwarz. It is titled Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School. The article focuses on the city of Canton, which is in a low income area of Georgia. It discusses the fact that more and more children are being prescribed medication to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, like Adderall, when they have not actually been diagnosed with A.D.H.D. Children in these poor schools and neighborhoods are not excelling in school and acting out a little bit, and their parents are asking their doctor’s for a solution, which results in an increasing amount of prescriptions given to children without knowing the long term affects it could have on their social, psychological and physical development.

            There are two specific examples in the article where every child in the family is on medication. One of the families has a fifteen, fourteen, and eleven year old all on A.D.H.D medication. This is one reason that I think one’s environment is so important for and has such an impact on one’s mental health. If all three children in this family are medicated for the same diagnosis, chances are it has more to do with the environment they are being raised in and the effect that has on them. It seems to me that these parents do not want to put in the effort they need to to raise their children to do well in school and not act out, so they are doing the easiest thing they can, put a band aid on the real issue by prescribing them medication.

            In addition, I do not think that it is entirely the parent’s fault either. They are most likely feeling the same pressures that everyone feels from society to excel and be better than everyone else. When parents do not see that from their children, or see them struggling, it is as if they will do anything so that their child seems “normal” and acts like all the other children.

            The fact that this is prevalent in lower class families and areas exemplifies the sociological idea that wealthier children have an advantage toward being successful. These families and these schools do not have enough money to help the children in the way they need to be helped and the way that will help the children succeed in the long run. So they put a band aid on the issue with this medication. But what happens if, for some reason, the child has to go off the medication? Or when the child is put into a different educational environment? Rather than being taught better study skills and how to focus and act toward your peers and elders properly, they are being given a medication that greatly aids them.

            The idea that parents are okay and encouraging of their children being on medication without a diagnosis or actual need for it perplexes me. Again, this could have to do with the fact that they are lower class families, who are often less educated, and therefore may not have the correct knowledge to make the right decision for their children. In the article, Dr. William Graf “said that a family should be able to choose for itself whether Adderall can benefit its non-A.D.H.D. child” (2). I think that idea is completely absurd. These parents are not the ones who have gone to medical school and spent years and years getting an education so that they can prescribe medicine. If this is the case, parents might as well be able to prescribe their children any type of medicine. To help the children long term, they should be talking to someone who can get to the root of the problem as well as teach them ways to cope with the stresses of growing up with the pressure to succeed in a low income environment, and if it is decided that medication will help, then they should be prescribed it. We need to look more at the environment the children are growing up in, the environment of the schools, and the effect the lack of public school funding will have on our generations to come.

Savannah Knowles

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