Ritalin and Prozac for preschoolers?

Posted by: Mia Von Scha | Date: July 7, 2014 | 7 Comments
AFP

I’m horrified by the number of children on mind-altering drugs. Did you know the fastest growing market for Ritalin and Prozac is preschool-aged children? Why are our children depressed? Why is nobody looking into the underlying causes before medicating? How can we possibly be diagnosing preschoolers with ADHD? Here are the actual criteria for diagnosing a child with ADHD:

– Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes.
– Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
– Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
– Often does not follow through on instructions.
– Often has trouble organising tasks and activities.
– Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
– Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (eg school materials, pencils, books, tools).
– Is often easily distracted.
– Is often forgetful in daily activities.
– Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
– Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
– Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate.
– Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
– Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
– Often talks excessively.
– Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
– Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
– Often interrupts or intrudes on others (eg butts into conversations or games).

Sounds like any 3-year-old or 5-year-old you know? And is it any wonder that four times as many boys are prescribed Ritalin as girls?

In a quick-fix world we need to be careful about the messages we’re giving our children about what’s normal and what’s not. It’s not normal for a pre-schooler, or even one in early primary school to be able to sit still for long periods of time and concentrate on things they have absolutely no interest in. It is normal for kids to be enthusiastic and energetic and driven to fulfilling their own highest priorities (namely play).

I’m not saying that there are no kids with genuine disorders in their brain chemistry who might benefit from some assistance, but we have to exhaust all alternatives before reaching for pills. And that goes for us as adults too. We’re far too accustomed to grabbing an aspirin instead of figuring out WHY we have a headache in the first place. Or heading for the tranquilisers before we’ll enter into the very real world of human emotion. Or glugging down the antacids instead of addressing our diets.

It’s time to STOP.

So please, before you drug your children, investigate the side-effects and dangers, and find out about the alternatives. Some of the side-effects for Ritalin include nervousness, insomnia, joint pains, fever, anorexia, nausea, dizziness, palpitations, headache, dyskinesia, drowsiness, increased blood pressure and pulse, rapid heart rate, angina, cardiac arrhythmias, abdominal pain, and psychosis.

Children have died.

Before deciding your child is definitely one of the few who genuinely needs medication, start by asking yourself these questions:

Is your child going through something upsetting emotionally (keep in mind that this could be something positive — a holiday, a new sibling)? Is your child getting all his/her needs met?

– Is your child getting enough Omega 3s in his/her diet?
– Have you tried cutting out sugar and refined carbohydrates?
– Is your child getting enough water every day?
– Has your child been exposed to high levels of lead in his/her environment?
– Does your child have undiagnosed allergies (dairy, soya, wheat, etc)?
– Is your child exposed to large amounts of food additives and excito-toxins such as monosodium glutamate?
– Is your child watching too much TV and/or spending too much time on video games (more than an hour a day)?
– Is your child getting enough exercise in a day?
– Is your child getting enough sleep?
– Does your child have a boring teacher, or a teacher who cannot be bothered to find out the child’s real interests and speak in ways that the child can relate to?
– Is your child, perhaps, just acting like a normal child of their age?

We’re talking about serious, scheduled drugs here — on the same level as cocaine. You wouldn’t give your child cocaine because someone with a white coat told you to. Please, ask questions, do some private research, question authority. There is absolutely no way that the number of kids on schedule six drugs really have a disorder.

Think about it.

Image – AFP

IN THIS SECTION


  • Jim_Pot

    Mia

    The mixed bag of influences on kids today are underrated. The article misses the following changing environment:

    Increased school bullies
    Over stimulation in the tech age
    Discipline limited in schools
    Depressed parents
    Single parents
    Divorced homes
    Quality of food is deteriorating (shelf-life revolution)
    Schools are over crowded
    Schools have reduced resources
    Gov placing more expectations on city schools to balance rural school results
    Families are spread across the country

  • Angelique

    I think before you condemn parents who medicate their children you have to think about what a serious decision that is. I doubt any good parent would carelessly put their children on to a drug such as Ritalin. I know that it took me many months, endless experts and I took the drug myself to understand what my child was going to experience.

    The major reason I followed the recommendations from my doctor, a child psychologist, teachers and observations of my own, was not for me to cope with my son, but for my son to cope with life. Have you any idea how heartbreaking it is to watch your child do something destructive without thought and the minute he has realized what he has done is overwhelmed by feels of guilt and shame. Its a common symptom of ADHD and one that Ritalin is very effective with, thought before action. My son’s opinion of himself has gone from negative to positive.

    Comparing cocaine to Ritalin is plain irresponsible, cocaine is mixed with unknown substances and is not controlled where as Ritalin is controlled you need a new prescription every month, there are regular checkups to ensure your child is on the right dose and that your child is coping with the side effects.

    Parents who are trying as best as they can to help children cope is this world which has become exceedingly more difficult to raise a child in. Your assumption that generally parents will medicate their children carelessly without thought is in the minority. Generalization and stereotype should never be the basis of any article and shows the lack of responsibility in writing a article like this. You are very obviously biased and show very little factual information.

    • Charles

      Angelique, I support your view of responsible parenting. To go as far as getting numerous opinions, doing private research and even trying the medication out yourself first is commendable. But I have to say that parents like you are not that common. I think most people simply trust the experts too easily. They think: the doctors know what they are doing, so I will do what they tell me to do.

      Furthermore, the article does state that there are cases where medication is warranted, but in many cases it is not. In many (and I believe in a large proportion of the cases), medication is the primary source of therapy. The article tries to persuade people that it should be the last option when considering dealing with a problem. From what I gather, you yourself did not want to expose your child to pills unless it was absolutely necessary.

      As for comparing Ritalin to cocaine. ‘Legal’ cocaine would certainly also be controlled, and impurities removed. It is only because cocaine is illegal and produced and sold by irresponsible criminals that it contains impurities. If cocaine had any beneficial properties, it would probably also be given a barcode. What they do have in common is that both substances are state altering. They both mess with neurotransmitters in your brain. Both are manufactured in chemical labs. Both are synthetic and both can cause damage to people. I think that was the message that the author tried to get across. Not to take anything away from situations in which medication in general serves a necessary role.

      The FACT is that medication like Ritalin is used to treat a chemical (biological) disorder. What caused the disorder in the first place? The article attempts to get us to ask the question… ‘What caused this “illness” and how do I deal with the cause?’ instead of ‘how can I deal with the problem with the least amount of effort?’

      You know in your heart that there are many people out there who do not ask questions, and use shortcuts in life. Please let the article speak to them.

  • Daniel Sher

    That’s a nice bit of decontextualized/selective reporting there… A more accurate description of the DSM 5 criteria would have mentioned that a minimum of 6 symptoms (from each cluster) are required for a diagnosis, not to mention the requirement that those symptoms cause ‘significant’ impairments in academic/social functioning!

  • Sandra Wiese

    Thank you Angelique for this well written reply! I agree 100% with you!!!

  • TJ

    As someone who has severe ADHD and takes Ritalin regularly, here’s a novel idea; maybe you people could consider actually asking your children how they feel about the idea before you make decisions about their bodies on their behalf. Some kids need Ritalin; some don’t; ALL kids are capable of deciding for themselves whether they want to take it.

  • Stephanie

    Whilst I agree with you that we have become a pill-popping society that turns straight to the pill-jar in our time of need, I must disagree on several of the points you make.

    Firstly and foremostly, there are several criteria that need to be fulfilled for the diagnosis of ADHD, including that the child must have at LEAST 6 symptoms in MULTIPLE SETTINGS – i.e. the child needs to present with such behaviour in BOTH their home and school environment. I stress this because too often children are placed on Ritalin because the teacher “can’t manage them.” Practitioners diagnosing ADHD therefore need to obtain information regarding the child’s behaviour in these environmentS. Unfortunately what seems to be happening is over-worked and under-resourced teachers/parents are frog-marching their “unmanageable children” to their local GP, getting a quick-fix of Ritalin (it is a quick-fix because it works within 30 minutes) and hey presto, the child is “fixed”. Oh, and a) on a psychoactive stimulant drug and b) usually labelled ADHD.

    ADHD is a complex, neurobiological disorder which is present in many children (and adults) and is NOT a result of home environment or poor diet. These may exacerbate the symptoms but they are not the cause and methods such as cutting down on sugar and other foods are not a treatment for ADHD. Fact: Ritalin DOES work in children with true ADHD. The problem is that ADHD is difficult to diagnose in that it is frequently co-morbid with other disorders AND other disorders often present with ADHD-like symptoms. However, without treatment, children with ADHD struggle to concentrate and therefore struggle to learn and so often get labelled “stupid”, “naughty”, and don’t get me started on what this does for their self-confidence. Research has also shown that untreated ADHD can lead to lifelong social, emotional and vocational difficulties.

    So please, I urge you and other parents to spend time, play and listen to your children. If you are concerned about their behaviour – hyperactivity, impulsivity or inattentiveness – then please don’t take them only to your GP. Ask them to refer you to a specialist – a child psychiatrist, neurodevelopmental paediatrician or clinical psychologist for the appropriate thorough assessment (there is no single test for ADHD) to determine, as accurately as possible, the reasons for this behaviour and to discuss with you the appropriate way forward in terms of treatment – which may include medical as well as behavioural treatment.