Debating About ADHD Medication . . . Again

It can be boggling to parents and educators. Every few months, news surfaces about yet another ADD/ADHD study. Findings vary, opinions on causes are discussed, and treatment ideas are evaluated. Teachers and counselors struggle to keep on top of new strategies for intervention and classroom success.

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In late January, Ritalin Gone Wrong, an opinion piece in the New York Times, discussed the short- and long-term usefulness of prescription medications in treating ADD/ADHD symptoms. Reviewing ongoing studies, Dr. L. Alan Sroufe raised the issue of overdependence on stimulants, stating that, “[stimulants] enhance the ability to concentrate . . . but they don’t improve broader learning abilities. And just as in the many dieters who have used and abandoned similar drugs to lose weight, the effects of stimulants on children with attention problems fade after prolonged use.” Sroufe shared his concern that overdependence on prescription drugs is diverting attention from treating individual causes—causes that may be based on experience rather than biochemistry.

There has been significant reaction to Sroufe’s article. In his blog, Dr. Ned Hallowell responded that “No clinician worth his or her salt believes that all problems can be cured with drugs. But neither does a responsible clinician deny the good that medications can do.” Hallowell goes on to state that “children need a loving, safe, and richly connected childhood. The long-term study . . . does indeed show that over time, medication becomes a less important force in a child’s improvement and that human connections become ever more powerful. It is good and heartening to know that human connection—i.e., love—works wonders over time. Love is our most powerful and under-prescribed ‘medication.’ It’s free and infinite in supply, and doctors most definitely ought to prescribe it more!”

The discussions will continue, voices will rise and fall. Clearly, medication is not the total answer. How do teachers fit in these ongoing debates? The effectiveness of intervention and strong classroom strategies for helping special education students is affirmed regularly. A recent St. Paul Pioneer Press article, “Special education gets fresh look in Minnesota schools,” examines how early assessment and planned intervention is improving students’ achievements. The skilled guidance and passion that teachers bring to their students is a vital key in helping kids to thrive.

What are some positive things kids with ADHD bring to your life? How do you keep learning fresh and interesting for your students? Please take a moment to share your stories below.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

Suggested resources:
Opinion: Ritalin Gone Wrong by L. Alan Sroufe , Ph.D., The New York Times, January 30, 2012
Special education gets fresh look in Minnesota schools by Christopher Magan, St. Paul Pioneer Press, February 12, 2012
A Practical Guide to Mental Health & Learning Disorders for Every Educator by Myles L. Cooley, Ph.D.


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About Mary Stennes Wilbourn

Blogger for Free Spirit Publishing.
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