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ADHD: to Medicate or Not to Medicate, Still a Question?

Does your son or daughter have ADHD? If so, you are not alone. ADHD affects between 3-8% of school-aged children and 75% of youth with Tourette Syndrome. It is the most common co-occurring condition with TS along with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Does your son or daughter take medication for their ADHD? Have you struggled with whether or not to allow them to take ADHD medication? Do you worry about whether taking medication for ADHD is a good idea? Again, you are not alone. Medical professionals are debating the same issue. In January, psychologist Alan Srouffe wrote an Op-ed in the New York Times called “Ritalin Gone Wrong.” He said “no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behaviour problems.” Instead, he reported, the benefits of the medications fade with time. Srouffee says that people have ADHD not just because of genetics, but also because of particular environments. Environmental factors that can cause ADHD, Srouffe writes, include lack of social support, chaotic living situations, and “especially, patterns of parental intrusiveness that involve stimulation for which the baby is not prepared.” Srouffe worries that ADHD meds do not fix these environmental factors which cause the problem in the first place. He concludes that “large-scale medication of children feeds into a societal view that all of life’s problems can be solved with a pill.” He also writes that: “the illusion that children’s beahivour problems can be cured with drugs prevents us from seeking the complex solution…” On June 9th, 2012, physician Leonard Sax agreed in another NY Times Op-ed about ADHD meds. Sax authored “Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men.” He writes: “The next time you hear a doctor say, with a regard to proscribing stimulant medications, ‘let’s try and see whether it helps,’ I suggest you run.” The medications he is referring to include Focalin, Metadate, Concerta, Adderall, and other stimulants used to treat ADHD. So where is the debate, you ask? Well, read on. On June 11th, Tanaya Froehlich, professor of developmental and behavioural paediatrics, disagreed. She says that while some patients are being treated inappropriately with ADHD meds, there is also evidence that some groups are under-diagnosed and undertreated. These groups include girls and the poor. She also writes that while ADHD meds do not work for every child, they “may confer important benefits” for some. Froehlich concludes: “our focus should be on increasing rigor in ADHD evaluations, rather than on blinding reducing medication use.” Check out this video from NBC news that presents both sides of the debate. Tell us what you think about medicating for ADHD: is it medically necessary or overprescribed?

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