Monday, December 10, 2012

SHOULD DISADVANTAGED SCHOOL CHILDREN GET ADD MEDS?

Why not, if they truly have ADD? Of course, they should. That’s obvious. What is not so obvious is the recent stimulant medication use in disadvantaged children when they don’t have ADHD. A New York Times article, ”Pills for the Struggling Student,”(October 9, 2012) discusses the recent trend of prescribing stimulants to low-income students, WHETHER OR NOT THEY HAVE ADHD, to give them the same”edge” that more privileged students have. Let us not forget that Ritalin, Adderal and other stimulants can raise alertness in most people without a diagnosis of ADHD. (From my experience, high socioeconomic kids take stimulant meds whether or not they have ADHD). Let us not forget that stimulants can have major bad side effects.

The argument for low-income children seems cogent, but important considerations need to be stressed. First, there are many issues being ignored. Does the school or state have funding programs to enhance academic learning through special services such as tutoring? If not, the easy way out is just having Medicaid and other insurers pay for the use of a pill, so the schools need to make no adjustments. Medication has always been seen as the last resort after other educational and behavioral issues have been employed. Now it’s the first step in helping kids?

Second there are many factors impeding academic success such as learning disabilities, behavioral and emotional problems. Medication does not usually alter these issues. Also, there are parental management and other family factors that should be addressed, which medication per se will not impact.

So is our society going to PAY ATTENTION to other educational and societal changes to improve academics of struggling low- income children or just use pills?

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