Pediatricians are now touting the use of psychotropic drugs like Adderall on children who do not have attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), even though these drugs are known to cause seizures, hallucinations and sudden death in some cases.
Georgia doctor Michael Anderson told the New York Times that he prescribes Adderall to children who have low grades in school, describing the drug as an "excuse" to hide the real problem -- substandard schooling.
“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” Anderson explained. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”
Child psychiatrist Dr. Nancy Rappaport echoed Anderson's statements. “We are seeing this more and more," she said. "We are using a chemical straitjacket instead of doing things that are just as important to also do, sometimes more.”
Even though doctors are given a specific set of protocols to diagnose ADHD, it appears that many of them are not using it. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Attention Disorders indicates that almost 20 percent of pediatricians are not following the protocol, but rather using their own "personal instinct" to prescribe ADHD drugs.
In the case of Adderall, the potential side effects can be far worse than the benefits. According to the website of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Adderall CII can cause blurred vision, seizures, high blood presure, stunted growth and psychotic hallucinations in children. Sudden death can also occur in children and adults who have heart problems if they take Adderall.
In addition, Adderall is an amphetamine and is listed as a Class 2 controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) because it is one of the most addictive pharmaceutical drugs available -- even more addictive than prescription anxiety drugs like Valium.
The addiction can become so severe that some children may resort to violent or suicidal behavior if they are deprived of their medication. Pediatrician Lawrence Miller described one such episode in an article he wrote for the Huffington Post:
"Give me my Adderall!" Matthew, a 15-year-old patient of mine, recently demanded of his parents. When they refused, Matthew slashed his left wrist with a box cutter. His parents called the police and he was taken to the county hospital emergency room for evaluation and possible admission to the psychiatric ward. His parents had withheld the medication for Matt's purported attention deficit disorder (ADD) because they hadn't liked the side effects of irritability and anger they had associated with their son's use of the medication.
Despite the dangers presented by Adderall and other ADHD drugs, many doctors don't see a way out, according to mental health researcher Dr. Ramesh Raghavan: “We are effectively forcing local community psychiatrists to use the only tool at their disposal, which is psychotropic medications.”