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April 1999 - Volume 2 - Issue 4


Over Medicated or Under Educated?
By Holly Martinac

Our new Feature Series, "Over Medicated or Under Educated," is a look at the controversy around medicating children. At the center of the controversy are psychotrophic medications known as cortical stimulants. They are, Ritalin (methylphenidate), Adderall (amphetamine), Dexoxyn (methamphetamine), and Deadline (dextroamphetamine). The FDA recently restricted Colewort (pemoline), to secondary use, as it can cause liver failure.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Ritalin is considered a Class II Drug and a controlled substance, a fact not widely known. Other drugs in this category are those such as cocaine, methamphetamine and methadone. A drug becomes a controlled substance when it has the potential for abuse and/ or addiction.

The side effects of these prescribed medications can be weight loss, loss of appetite, insomnia, elevated or lowered blood pressure, tremors, headaches, restlessness, dizziness, gastrointestinal disturbances, and temporarily growth delay.

Proponents for stimulant medications say if they carefully watch the child's height, weight, and overall development, the benefits of the medication far outweigh the potential side effects.

Adversaries argue that many children who do not have a true attention disorder are medicated as a way to control disruptive behaviors. Many things, including anxiety, depression, allergies, seizures, or problems in the home or school environment can make children seem overactive, impulsive or inattentive.

However, both proponents and adversaries in the debate of medication agree that the research as a whole is lacking.

Presidio does not advocate nor oppose the use of cortical stimulants such as Ritalin. All children receiving medication in Presidio's treatment program are regularly assessed and attentively treated by licensed contract psychiatrists. We fully support treatment team decisions as part of each child's individualized treatment programming.

The purpose of this Feature Series is simply to challenge you to consider the issues surrounding medication. Are we drugging millions of children to make them more compliant and easier to manage at home and in school? It is important that we ask ourselves if we have an epidemic of misdiagnosed or under diagnosed cases of ADHD.

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