Adderall and similar prescription drugs have become prominent on college campuses in the past several years — however, stimulants aren’t just used by stressed and overworked college students, but younger students as well. Recently, doctors have prescribed children in low-income areas Adderall so they can get ahead in school — whether they have ADHD or not. Doctors falsely diagnose children who struggle in school and prescribe them medication as a coping mechanism. Adderall is a quick but dangerous fix to the larger problem of underfunded and low-performing school districts, and it’s not the way to improve low-income districts’ test scores.
In Canton, Ga., Dr. Michael Anderson diagnoses lower-income children with ADHD and prescribes them stimulants. But Anderson places the blame on the economic status of the students rather than the disease itself; indeed, he considers the prescriptions he writes an evening of the scales. According to Anderson, society hasn’t spent the time or the money to fix the real problem, so these stimulants give some lower-income children a boost they wouldn’t otherwise receive. Parents reportedly don’t object, but rather support the quick fix.
The prescription of Adderall to children without ADHD creates numerous issues, primarily the negative side effects. Basic side effects are loss of appetite and insomnia, but there are other, potentially dangerous, complications. These include irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, severe headaches, hallucinations and psychotic episodes — a psychological effect one of Anderson’s young patients experienced. Many who regularly take Adderall also develop a dependency. Any growing child should not be subjected to this addictive and dangerous drug during crucial developmental periods.
These false diagnoses also discredit real cases of ADHD, taking away from students who actually do have the disorder and require the medication to keep up in school. Parents certainly want their kids to succeed, but that requires hard work to overcome barriers, not a prescription pad. It’s true that many children in low-income areas struggle with a unique set of circumstances; however, parents should attempt to wrestle with these problems to the best of their abilities before endangering their children with unnecessary medication. This “solution” effectively accommodates under-performing school districts instead of dealing with the underlying administrative issues that cause this disparity. Giving these children Adderall may help them in school, but it does nothing to address the larger issue at hand. We need to treat the schools’ ailments — not the children’s.