As more children are being prescribed psychiatric drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, misuse is also on the rise, prompting experts to question why so many kids are being told they need psychiatric drugs in the first place.
The journal Pediatrics reports that poison control centers saw more than 150,000 calls related to people younger than 20 being improperly exposed to such meds from 2000 to 2014. Some of the drugs that are commonly prescribed for ADHD include Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta.
It’s not surprising when you consider that around 6.1 million children aged 2 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, and six in ten of these children are taking medication for the condition. The numbers rose by 2 million between 2003 and 2011, and it looks like the problem isn’t going away any time soon. As a matter of fact, the risk of a three-year-old being diagnosed with ADHD is now more than 40 percent, showing how wildly overdiagnosed this condition is. Overall, more than eight million American children take some type of psychotropic drugs.
The poison control calls were related to unintentional exposures via improperly stored pills, overdoses, or failure to follow directions. Seventy-five percent of these types of calls were for kids younger than 12.
Another very concerning aspect is abuse, which accounted for nearly a quarter of the calls among teens. Nearly 9,000 calls pertained to those who were using the pills in an attempt to commit suicide, prompting serious concerns among experts. Overall, poison control centers are seeing an average of 29 calls per day and 200 calls per week related to ADHD drugs.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy Director Gary Smith, who was a senior author of their study, said: “They’re taking bigger doses, it’s resulting in more serious outcomes and it’s not infrequent,” he says. “Looking into the motivations behind these attempted suicides would be absolutely critical.”
It’s not uncommon for college students under pressure to perform well academically to use ADHD drugs as “study drugs” in hopes of improving their focus. Many mistakenly believe they can’t be that harmful if they’re given to children regularly, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These stimulants carry some very serious side effects, including high blood pressure, drowsiness, irritability, and rapid heartbeat, and overdoses can be fatal.
Another factor contributing to the higher numbers of kids taking ADHD drugs is the aggressive marketing by the pharmaceutical companies. Some experts believe that parents sometimes have unrealistic expectations and their doctors are too quick to prescribe medication when treatments like behavioral therapy could be enough to set things right.
Sadly, many young people are given ADHD diagnoses and the corresponding medications out of convenience. Teachers and parents eager to see hyperactive kids calm down a bit are sometimes tempted by the allure of a “quick fix,” but there is no doubt that a society full of drugged-up young people is a recipe for disaster.
Oliver North, incoming National Rifle Association President, may have taken some flak for his recent comments linking Ritalin to school shootings, but the truth is that many school shooting perpetrators had been taking psych meds – antidepressants in most cases. Whether you agree with him or not about Ritalin specifically, it’s hard to argue with his point that medications don’t address the root cause of legitimate mental disorders.
“We’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptoms without treating the disease,” he said. “And the disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence. They’ve been drugged in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male. … Many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten.”
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