A new report from the CDC reveals that children in America are being increasingly medicated.
The study, which was published this month, states that 1 in 13 children from 6-17 years of age are using prescribed medication for “emotional and behavioral difficulties.”
Proponents of these psychiatric meds claim that these statistics prove the drugs are working. LaJeana Howie, an author of the report, stated that, “We can’t advise parents on what they should do, but I think it’s positive that over half of parents reported that medications helped ‘a lot.'”
According to Howie, more than 80 percent of the children used in the study had at one time been diagnosed with ADHD. The question of whether ADHD is over-diagnosed in children is a hotly debated topic in the medical community. Sanford Newmark, head of the pediatric integrative neurodevelopmental program at the University of California, San Francisco, states that doctors aren’t adequately distinguishing between typical developmental immaturity and ADHD. Children who are misdiagnosed and take ADHD drugs have brains that are still developing, and aren’t able to weigh the risks and benefits of medication.
Even in cases where children are correctly diagnosed with ADHD, Newmark states that there are other options besides pharmaceuticals, whose long-term effects are still largely unknown.
Other experts contest that the increased ADHD diagnoses are symptomatic of increased awareness of the disorder, and that the drugs used to treat it are safe and non-addictive.
Adderall and Vyvanse, some of the more popular drugs used to treat ADHD, are classified as Schedule II controlled substances because they can be addictive. Side effects from these drugs include insomnia, sudden high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and seizures.
Individuals that haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD are increasingly abusing these types of medications. According to NPR, various surveys reveal that 8 to 35 percent of college students have used ADHD drugs to enhance their scholastic performance, without ever visiting a doctor. The increasing regularity with which people are being diagnosed with ADHD is impacting the number of prescription pills in circulation, allowing those who would abuse it easy access.
William Graf, professor of pediatric neurology at the Yale School of Medicine, warns against this type of self-medication, and encourages people who aren’t suffering from ADHD to seek alternative treatments. “We have to get back to the basics,” Graf says. “Sleep, exercise and social interaction.”