Research data now indicates that 11 percent of U.S. children have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or “A.D.H.D.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that this medical diagnosis is more concentrated for high school boys, with one in five of them receiving this type of diagnosis. Over the past ten years, there has been an overall rise in A.D.H.D. cases which has been troubling many doctors and parents alike.
In total, 6.4 million American children (between the ages of 4-17) have received prescription A.D.H.D. medication at some point in their lives, which is a number that causes many doctors to question whether or not these medications are being overused and even over-prescribed. Stimulant drugs like Ritalin and Adderall have been prescribed to America’s children at a more than 50% increased rate as they were ten years ago. While prescription stimulants can help children with hyperactivity disorders, it can also lead to addiction later on in life.
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Some doctors have extremely strong opinions on the subject, stating that “mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy.” Adding additional concern, the American Psychiatric Association will soon change the definition of A.D.H.D. to allow more children access to prescription stimulants. There is even a growing concern that these pills will be shared and even sold with fellow classmates.
The perceived notion that A.D.H.D. ceases in childhood is incorrect. Hyperactivity disorders are widely considered chronic conditions that many individuals carry on well into adulthood. Although many children and adults alike are being prescribed stimulants that drastically help, the increased number of overall prescriptions has also led to a rise in overall misuse. To get a stimulant prescription, many parents simply consult with their doctor and explain how their child’s behavior is “abnormal.” Unfortunately, many times this is just children acting as children do, rather than a medical condition.
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Adding an interesting element to the CDC statistics, A.D.H.D. diagnoses are more heavily concentrated in Southern states like Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee. In these states, 23 percent of school boys were on some sort of stimulant prescription to treat a hyperactivity disorder. Many experts say that parents have pushed doctors to prescribe the medication as a means to improve their children’s grades, with little concern over long-term effects and the potential for addiction.
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In fact, many doctors who previously touted the benefits and downplayed the risks of stimulant A.D.H.D. drugs are recanting their former opinions. The high prescription rates this country is now seeing indicate that while many children do have legitimate hyperactivity conditions, many doctors are handing out prescriptions too freely, and may even “have a hand in creating that problem,” as one doctor put it.