Ritalin and Prozac for preschoolers?

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