Monday, May 10, 2010

Why does Johnny still need meds?

I've been around a lot of children who have allegedly been diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I say "allegedly" because I am not convinced such psychiatric diagnoses are even valid.

I'm not alone when I speak for parents who are scratching their heads when they're told by a neurological pediatrician that their child needs medication to help manage their hyperactive behavior.

Most of the time, the final diagnosis is based on a series of questions that, if answered affirmatively,  demonstrates the child has a disorder that must be treated.  Otherwise, the child will not "fit" into social settings.  As you know, questionnaires can be skewed to arrive at a desired conclusion.

Is there something wrong with kids today that they need to be medicated with such drugs as Ritalin, Strattera and Adderall?  It's almost as if, according to Dr. Michael Gerson, associate psychology professor at California Lutheran University, kids today are beng "redefined as physically and mentally defective creatures" who need to be medicinally managed. Many parents buy into these scare tactics in which a medically untrained teacher or a pediatrician will guilt trip them into putting their child on medications some of which are narcotics.

When I was in the second grade, I couldn't sit still. I was bouncing off the walls. Math,  spelling and social studies was boring. I'd rather draw cartoons while the teacher lectured the class.  I  remained the same way until high school.  Did I need to be medicated?  Some health care professionals would've advised my unsuspecting parents to put me on drugs.  However, my teachers dealt with my childhood jitters by making me sit out in the hall for an hour and not disturb the class, or be assigned an of detention after school.

I never matured to care enough about my education until I entered college.  Then I buckled down and earned a B.A. and two master degrees . . . all without taking stimulants to help me concentrate.

The solution for today's' fidgeting generation may just be the need to mature.  And teachers and parents are going to have to exercise tough discipline until that maturation occurs.  Am I advocating that parents delay their gratification with their precious child receiving educational honors?  Yes, and some parents may never get to put a bumper sticker on their car that reads, "My child is an honor student at Stratera Elementary School."

In the meantime parents are going to have to be tougher on their kids regarding rewards and punishment when it comes to their kid's behavior in school.

I empathize with teachers who have to discipline out-of-control children in their classrooms. The job really belongs to parents.

There have been countless times when I've witnessed children ages 3-6 running around a restaurant, climbing over empty booths or playing with condiments on the table.  The parents ignore their offspring's foolishness and other patrons are forced to suffer.  The children learn little discipline, have no consequences for their behavior and cannot handle the word "no."  Then these kids enter school and they can't sit down.  They've been trained by their parents that they don't have to sit still.

The teachers don't want to deal with a jumpy bunch of kids, so they recommend medication. It's Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

As a parent I advocate that drugs are not the answer. Treating our children today as if they have some mental disorder - ADD. ADHD - has gotten out of hand.  An American Psychologist article estimated that as many as 20% of U.S. youths meet the criteria for mental disorder.  I wonder how many of those psychologists conducting the tests meet the same criteria for mental disorders.

Dr. Gerson advocates rather than describing children with some sort of deficiency, perhaps they are merely spirited, rude and obnoxious kids. They need to learn how to behave in a social setting, respect the rights of others to speak without being interrupted and to sit still when an adult is speaking. Instead, we have bought into a pharmaceutical solution that everything can be fixed with a pill.

Another issue that links to hyperactive behavior is diet. How hard is it for parents to not give their kids sugar loaded cereals for breakfast and send them off to school bouncing off the walls?  If you feed your child a high intake of sugar - soda, candy, sugar coated cereal - they will become hyperactive.

When the sugar rush drops off, the child experiences low blood sugar levels, becomes sleepy and cannot concentrate.  For parents today, it's too hard to keep their kids from sugar, so they've opted for 20 mgs of amphetamines or Adderall.

Other blogs suggest alternative ways to deal with hyperactivity.

The worst by-product of the over-stimulated generation is telling them that they're "victims" of their disorder.  "I can't help or stop the way I behave.  It's my ADHD. I have a chemical imbalance."

The child is taught they no longer need to take responsibility for themselves. What is the answer to the child who is taught he or she is a victim of a disorder?  Mommy and Daddy will fix them with pills, and put more money into the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture these medications.

Before you put your ten-year-old on stimulants or the controversial drug Ritalin, consider your little one is only a child.  A nine or ten year old finds it hard to sit still. They are restless, not hyperactive.

Because your child cannot concentrate does not prove he or she has a disorder.  Right now I'm drinking a cup of coffee containing a fair amount of caffeine. Why?  Because at this time of the day, I need a pick up to help me concentrate.  Do I have a disorder?  Should I go on amphetamine pills just because the caffeine pokes me awake for the next few hours?

Parents, don't be led as lambs to the slaughter when your MD prescribes a drug that can potentially harm your child.  Beware your pediatrician will assure you that kids who have bad side-effects from these drugs are in the minority.

Don't believe them. Adderall suppresses a child's appetite and your kid will eat less affecting both his nutritional intake and growth patterns. To fix this problem, your pediatrician may prescribe Human Growth Hormones to fix a medical condition they created.

Also, kids who take Adderall are using what is commonly called on the streets, "speed" or "uppers."  So your child is already being introduced to the world of drugs . . . thanks to your pediatrician. You are taking a chance that your kid may be getting high off the amphetamines you dose out to him each morning at breakfast!  He may soon graduate to pot or a stronger stimulant, cocaine.  Consider that Adderall and other stimulants/narcotics meant to correct ADD and ADHD may be your child's gateway into the dark world of drug abuse.

Doctors will argue against what I am saying, and quote all kinds of clinical studies.  But there is only one study that matters and that is the behavior of your child.  That's hard evidence your MD cannot refute.


Anonymous said...


Julie said...

My take on this as a parent is that Kids seem to be FORCED to grow up, and its a terrible terrible thing for childhood to be nothing but a dulled memory. Kids need to be kids, and if that means they are jittery, hyper, want to climb things, cant sit down, can't concentrate by sitting for ungodly amounts of time, then SO BE IT!

When I hear that a child has been "diagnosed" with ADD, I cringe. There are other means and methods to accept the personalities these children have.

My daughter's speech therapist has mentioned to me that some children do better listening when standing. Even with my daughter who is in speech therapy, she does much better while standing, than when she is sitting.
If teachers can accept this method, it may extremely improve the results of their learning without having to medicate (robotize) the kids. Every child learns at their own pace and at their own will and comfortability. We need to understand this, get in tune with our children.. Don't babysit with the television - KNOW our children.

I am firmly against medication of children for "ADD" -- if things seem to take a downward spiral once adulthood hits, then therapy should come into play and take it from there.

Louis, your article was well written and your insight is right in tune with mine :)

Phil G said...


I'd be interested in talking you sometime at length about this conversation. Recently I was diagnosed with ADHD myself. Shoot me a PM if you'd like to talk more about this. While I'm willing to entertain the possibility that some people are misdiagnosed with this disorder, I firmly believe that it is a legitimate diagnosis. For some young soldiers, having the right ADHD medication is a matter of life and death--especially if you're riding in the turret of a humvee. (I'm working as a clinical psychology intern at Walter Reed currently, which explains how I was exposed to this issue.)

Drop me a line if you'd like to chat sometime. Cheers!

Louis Lapides said...

Julie: thanks for your thoughtful response. Yes, kids need to be kids. That means they will be jittery, want to climb walls, can't sit still for 5 hours a day and have a hard time concentrating. Instead, we are trying to push our kids out of childhood and hurry them into adulthood. They can't keep up and their brains are not developing fast enough to stay on task. Parents, as you say, need to get to KNOW, their kid and prohibit school officials from determining what your child needs or does not need.

Louis Lapides said...

Phl: Good to hear from you. I am not a clinical psychologist but I have been a parent for over 26 year- not a perfect one. I am familiar with the way our school system works and how special ed operates as well. My remarks are directed toward children and are based on my experience. I have read a number of books on the subject of ADD/ADHD and all the reading left me unconvinced. I do know some adults diagnosed with ADHD and they have chosen to work through their inability to stay on task without taking meds. The people I refer to are highly functional individuals who are under great pressure to perform on a daily basis.

If a soldier needs ADHD meds in order to be highly functional in a gun turret, should they be given that kind of dangerous MOS. It makes me question the wisdom of our military. In Vietnam I kept guard every night using an M60 machine gun looking for Viet Cong frogmen seeking to blow up our cargo ship. You bet your ass I concentrated and kept watch to the best of my abilities even though I described myself as coming from a hyperactive background.
The question you have to ask yourself when you're diagnosed with any disorder is this, "Does this disorder ring true with what I know to be true of myself?" Am I willing to rely on another imperfect, individual, though trained, to tell me I have a disorder? I'll go for the old adage, "Be true to thyself!"

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Louis Lapides said...