Doctors are prescribing prescription pills like Adderall to low-income kids even if they don’t “need” drugs to function because it’s often the only realistic way to help them do well in school.
“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” one doctor who treats poor families outside of Atlanta, Georgia, told the New York Times . “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”
It’s easy for those of us without kids struggling to succeed in inadequate schools to act horrified about the way A.D.H.D diagnosis rates are rising as school funding drops — because it is horrifying to imagine a bunch of elementary schoolers hopped up on speed that’s doing god knows what to their little brains (well, we know that some reported side effects include growth suppression, increased blood pressure and psychotic episodes; we’ll get to that in a second) — but it all depends on how you measure success. Is the end goal a perfectly clear blood stream or good grades against the odds? Some parents (and doctors) would choose the latter.
“We as a society have been unwilling to invest in very effective nonpharmaceutical interventions for these children and their families,” Dr. Ramesh Raghavan, a child mental-health services researcher at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert in prescription drug use among low-income children, told the Times. “We are effectively forcing local community psychiatrists to use the only tool at their disposal, which is psychotropic medications.”