Recently, I read an article in Medical News Today concerning the diagnosis of ADHD and ADD in children as young as four years old. Reading this really struck a chord, it made me a bit sick to my stomach; I was not really sure how to digest this new information. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that it has lowered its previous guidelines from six years old to four as an acceptable age to begin identification of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
How is it really possible to discern whether a child is just being a child versus displaying actual signs of ADHD/ADD especially at that young of an age? If pre-school age children display moderate to severe symptoms are we to begin plying them with Ritalin to settle them down? What scares me about these new regulations is that parents and doctors could possibly misdiagnose or abuse this new guideline proposing that younger and younger children be given this addictive and dangerous medication.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, behavior interventions are possible given the proper management techniques, however if that treatment was not adequate then prescribed medication would be considered. The real issue is that Ritalin (methylphenidate) is not an FDA approved medication for children that young. Are we just asking for trouble by following these new recommendations?
Ritalin, which is a form of speed, has a huge potential for abuse, an addiction that has led to many deaths in not only adults but adolescents as well (between 1990 and 2000 a reported 186 deaths resulted from this drug). As a society increasing the access to Ritalin is a risk.
Lead author of the report put out by the AAP, Mark Wolraich, MD, FAAP (also a professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center) claims that having the ability to treat and diagnosis children at a younger age is important, more children will have the capability of succeeding in school, but at what stake?
The guidelines suggest that the overactive and impulsive behaviors would be monitored on a continuous basis for four to six months (in the home, school and other environments). It is imperative that parents are appropriately educated so as to learn how to best aid the child when they are experiencing the symptoms of ADD/ADHD in order to apply the proper behavioral tools and techniques.
The identified side effects of Ritalin can be extremely hazardous and put our children’s health and well-being in jeopardy. A conscious effort must be made to accurately diagnose and take the right action needed to save our children from further becoming addicted (the Drug Enforcement Administration clearly states in their report on Methylphenidate pg. 11: “However, contrary to popular belief, stimulants like methylphenidate will affect normal children and adults in the same manner that they affect ADHD children. Improvements to behavior and attention span with methylphenidate treatment therefore are not diagnostic of ADHD). The idea of attaching a difficult diagnosis to kids as young as four is a very scary prospect, especially when we as a nation already have an issue with over-medicating our young.