In America today, it seems that the "go to" method for addressing the issue of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children, is to do nothing but write a prescription and that includes even where there is only a suspicion of it being an issue without an actual diagnosis. From 2004-2008, there was an 80% increase globally in the amount of "Methylphenidate" given to children (Ritalin and Concerta) and the United States uses nearly 75% of the WORLD'S SUPPLY. As parents, educators and/or caregivers, we seem to have no regard for the fact that statistics do not even prove that medications are always necessary or effective to resolve ADHD.
A study considered to be the "gold standard" in ADHD studies, looked at over 600 children with this issue, comparing those utilizing medication therapy alone, behavioral therapy alone, or a combination of both and measured them all on 20 different dimensions. At first, the results show that medication or medication plus behavioral therapy were the best options for parents. However, after a 36-month period, those results had faded dramatically and when long term sustainability was taken into account, medication therapy alone was actually found to be very ineffective providing only temporary relief to behavioral problems. After 8 years, the effects of medication therapy showed no evidence of being able to create change in behavior or academic standing. Those who had received behavioral therapy ,showed just the opposite, meaning they demonstrate more sustainable changes that could be maintained even after the therapy had stopped.
Simply put, medication alone should NOT be considered a long-term solution to helping children with ADHD and greater focus needs to be put on behavioral therapy. While attention-deficit drugs can increase concentration in the SHORT TERM (hence the reason they are effective on college students who are trying to cram for finals) there is just no evidence to support that believing in any way that giving them to children for the purpose of creating change in behavior or academic performance over long periods of time is beneficial. Not to mention the side effects that these drugs can bring with them such as nervousness, agitation, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headache, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, stunting ones growth, and psychosis.
I find it incredibly scary to think that we are medicating children with no real concept of what the side effects are or what the impact will be. The brain of a child is absolutely not the same as an adults which means we cannot give them controlled substances in doses we would give to adults. We do need further studies to point us in the right direction so that we do not end up using medication that produces long-term harm because we are satisfied with short-term success, but until that happens, parents have to be the voice for their children. they need to educate themselves on the differences between age appropriate behaviors and undesirable ones. Parents need to not be afraid to question doctors or teachers when they are being told to medicate their child. There is a time and place for children to receive these medications, but it is not without receiving the opinion of a psychologist who is qualified to diagnosis childhood issues.
At the end of the day, we cannot refuse to speak up for children, start giving them controlled substances at a young age, and then stand back and wonder how they become addicted as teenagers!