Moral Low Ground


American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends Ritalin for 4-Year-Olds

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a set of revised guidelines that recommend treating children as young as four who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with the drug Ritalin.

According to the CBC, some of the doctors who authored the new guidelines recommending Ritalin prescription are employed by companies that sell ADHD medications.

The revised guidelines advise that four-year-olds who show signs of serious ADHD should receive medical evaluations, with behavioral therapy the first step and the prescription of methylphenidate, or Ritalin, to follow if the child’s behavior does not improve.

Doctors insist that treating children at a young age increases their chances of successful scholastic performance. Behavior therapy sometimes helps, they say, but drugs are often seen as the answer. “For a large proportion of children, the part of the brain, the frontal lobe that allows them to do executive functions, require medication just to activate those centers to work,” Kiran Pure, a child psychologist in Dartmouth, Canada told the CBC.

But ADHD are not currently approved for children under the age of six in either the United States or Canada.

Dr. Diane Sacks, former President of the Canadian Pediatric Society, told the CBC that most Canadian specialists would not prescribe ADHD drugs for children under six due to the possible side effects. “As pediatricians, we’re very concerned about growth in young children,” she said. “If they’re on a medication that decreases appetite, we are concerned that growth may be impacted.”

Indeed, side effects of Ritalin can include: slowing of growth, seizures, eyesight changes, increased tolerance, addiction, nervousness, insomnia, decreased appetite, headache, stomach ace, nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, rapid pulse, paranoia, hallucinations, depression, skin infection, urinary tract infection and liver damage.

Still, many specialists and parents swear by ADHD medications. “I had to swallow my fear and do what I felt… was best for her knowing that we could pull the plug at any time and I’m really glad we did,” Leslie Urqhart, speaking about her 5-year-old daughter Holly, told the CBC. “It’s made a huge, huge difference in our lives,” she added.

But the profitable relationship between some of the authors of the new guidelines and the companies that sell ADHD drugs is troubling to say the least, and calls into question both the validity of their findings and the motives behind their recommendation. These ought to be closely examined before health authorities approve the use of such potentially dangerous drugs by pre-schoolers.


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