Monday, October 31, 2011

News Brief: Drugs to Treat A.D.H.D. Reach the Preschool Set

Hallie Abelman
As of last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its guidelines for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, providing doctors with the opportunity to prescribe A.D.H.D. medication to preschool children if behavioral efforts fail. Parents of children as young as three years old are now allowed to medicate their children whereas they used to be advised towards alternative approaches to treatment such as occupational therapy, diet changes, exercise, and behavior modification until their children reached age six. Although some children might respond positively to the drug therapy, it is difficult to ensure the accuracy of such a strong diagnosis at such a young age. Critics believe that Americans should be more skeptical of medication, especially since the number of children taking A.D.H.D. medication has increased steadily in recent years (as of 2008, 5.1% of children take ADHD medication). One long-term study has been done of young children taking the drug, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, in which 303 preschoolers and their parents participated in ten weeks of behavioral training and therapy before getting the option to take medication. This study led one third of the families to refrain from giving their children medication because the child’s behavior had improved so much already. In addition, the trial revealed that older children benefit more from the medication and that younger children were more susceptible to adverse side effects such as weight loss and anxious habits. The changing of guidelines is a controversial issue that will force parents to assess their child-rearing strategies when dealing with young children who are hyperactive. Difficulties emerge in distinguishing a healthy-active child who has a hard time focusing in kindergarten class from a child that deserves mind-altering medication. While the guidelines do not encourage doctors to prescribe drugs to three year olds, it provides a new option that has the potential to change the way our society treats children, suffering and disease.
Reference: Rabin, Caryn Roni. “Drugs to Treat A.D.H.D Reach the Preschool Set”. The New York Times Health. Web. October 30, 2011
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