Doctors at Yale School of Medicine and the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) have called upon their fellow physicians to limit or end the practice of prescribing memory-enhancing drugs to healthy children in a position statement published in the March 13, 2013, online issue of the journal Neurology.
The doctors are attempting to stop a known and growing trend of prescribing ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) drugs to children who do not have ADHD because their parents request the drug. The aim of the parents is to enhance their children’s academic performance. The children take the ADHD drugs before tests. The drugs are viewed as “study drugs” and are considered to enhance memory and reduce test anxiety.
The physicians and psychiatrists point to dozens of ethical, legal, social, and developmental reasons why prescribing mind-enhancing drugs, such as those used to treat ADHD, for healthy people is viewed differently in children and adolescents than it would be in functional, independent adults with full decision-making capacities.
Risks of dependency, loss of trust in the doctor patient relationship, and the unknown effects of long term use of a psychoactive substance on a child’s developing brain and body are also noted by the doctors as a reason for prohibiting the practice.
Originally, some students were buying ADHD drugs from other students as a means to improve their test performance or to get high. Urban myth has produced the perception in parents that ADHD drugs will enable their children to perform at higher levels academically. The physicians claim this misconception cannot be used as a basis for parental request for drugs that are not needed.
Medicaid (taxpayers) may pay for parental requested ADHD drugs that a child does not need. The lack of a true physical test for ADHD that demonstrates a biochemical need is lacking. Present prescription of ADHD drugs is based on a subjective diagnosis.
The complete statement is available here.