Complicated Trend: ADHD Meds to Boost Poor Kids' Grades - FamilyEducation

Complicated Trend: ADHD Meds to Boost Poor Kids' Grades

October 12,2012

There are parents whose hearts broke on the day their child was diagnosed with ADHD, and who painfully weighed the treatment options for ADHD, taking great pains to avoid putting their child on medication before finally resorting to it. And then, as a new NYTimes article points out, there are parents (and doctors) who are more breezy -- even eager -- about the whole thing: pinning the ADHD label on a child (true or not) to get him or her the meds that will help boost his attention span and grades in school.

It's nothing new for (usually affluent) high schoolers and college kids to pop Aderall to have an academic edge -- which is so obviously not cool. But the trend the Times points out  is a little more complicated, you see, because it involves prescribing ADHD drugs to young, poor children who are generally not thriving in school. In these tough times, schools (and -- if you read between the lines -- parents) are struggling to meet kids' needs, especially in poor, rural areas.

The article focuses on a doctor in rural Georgia who subscribes to that theory: "He calls the disorder 'made up' and 'an excuse' to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children’s true ill — poor academic performance in inadequate schools."

So it's socially just to give these kids a leg up, right? To slide them some pills that help D's and F's turn into A's and B's?

Not so fast. The article (and the comments section -- which is blowing up!) indicates that there are many conservative doctors and parents who still focus on the facts: ADHD meds are powerful and addictive stimulants, and we know little about the longterm effects of them. (Read: kinda scary. Not something to enter into lightly.)

Meds can absolutely be a godsend to those with legit ADHD. But would you want your child on them if something else, like a little more structure and guidance, might be the answer? Then again, what if (of no fault of the child) more structure and guidance from adults is never coming in their life? The meds could give them a shot at a vocation or career and help break the cycle of poverty...

It's complicated. 

What are your thoughts?

Check out our new action guide for parents of children with ADHD, plus these other ADHD resources.