The number of U.S. children affected by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is astronomical. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 11% of children ages four through 17 are diagnosed with ADHD. When a condition affects more than one in ten U.S. children, one has to wonder how an epidemic of this proportion developed and what should be done. Some experts are concerned, however, about the increasing rates of ADHD diagnoses and the medication prescribed.
ADHD is mental health disorder, most commonly diagnosed in children, that consists of symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, and having difficulty controlling behavior. While ADHD is a legitimate medical condition that can disrupt one’s health and quality of life, its symptoms may have other causes and may even be developmentally appropriate for some children. A person can be diagnosed with ADHD if they exhibit even one or two of the disorder’s symptoms, and inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are common behaviors among children between the ages of three and18. The diagnosis for ADHD is non-scientific, like most mental health disorders, and many experts are concerned about the long-term repercussions of prescribing psycho-altering medications to young children.
As the rates of ADHD have dramatically increased, so have the rates of prescription stimulant use. According to IMS Health, rates of prescription stimulant use have more than quintupled since 2002. Drugs like Ritalin and Adderall are typically the first and only solution when a medical doctor gives an ADHD diagnosis. While common ADHD medications can alleviate symptoms that interfere with everyday life, these drugs can cause significant and dangerous side effects, especially Adderall. Jumping to a diagnosis of ADHD too soon can set up a child or adult for long-term serious health problems due to the overuse or unnecessary use of a stimulant drug.
Common ADHD medications like Adderall are put into the same drug classification as morphine and oxycodone, meaning that Adderall is regulated just as heavily as these drugs because of its potential for abuse and addiction. Even more alarming, the long-term effects of this drug on children are not yet fully understood. The boom in stimulant drugs prescribed for ADHD is so recent that researchers do not yet know what the long-term effects will be.
What is known is that common ADHD medications such as Adderall are addictive. Adderall and other stimulants are also linked to cardiovascular problems such as arrhythmias and increased blood pressure, as well as appetite and weight problems. The long-term use of an ADHD medication will interfere with emotional regulation and can cause psychological issues as well as behavioral problems. Regular stimulant users can quickly develop a physical tolerance to and dependence on the drug, meaning that their bodies eventually need higher and higher doses of the drug in order to feel normal. Persons who have become dependent on Adderall or other stimulants may find that they experience headaches, cognitive impairments, irritability, depression, fatigue, and symptoms of psychosis when they are not using the drug. Furthermore, ADHD medications are stimulants that speed up brain-activity and other functions in the body. An overdose of this medication can be lethal or lead to painful side effects such as hallucinations, panic states, tremors, restlessness, aggressiveness, nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat and seizures.
Individuals concerned that they or a loved one exhibits symptoms of ADHD should take caution when seeking treatment, and make sure to understand the implications of using a mind-altering drug on a regular basis. There are several other treatments and lifestyle changes on can make to deter or treat symptoms similar to ADHD.
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