ADHD Drugs: No Diagnosis? No Meds, Say Experts

Kids with ADHD can benefit greatly from medication — but doctors should say no to teens who are just seeking stimulants as "study aids."
ADHD News Feed | posted by Wayne Kalyn

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has released a paper criticizing the practice, by some physicians, of prescribing ADHD medications to kids who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD for the purpose of boosting memory and concentration and improving performance on tests.

AAN acknowledged that some doctors are engaging in this practice and warned against the ethical and medical implications of doing so.

Dr. William Graf, lead author of the position paper, which was published in the journal Neurology, and his colleagues argue that physicians should not give prescriptions to teens who ask for medication to enhance concentration against their parents’ advice.

“If you have a child who can sit still and doesn’t seem to have a problem focusing on a task, a stimulant won’t improve school performance,” says Almut Winterstein, a pharmacy researcher from the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Some experts worry that the AAN recommendations may confuse parents of kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD, some of who are hesitant to give prescription drugs to their kids.

“I worry that we’re focusing too much on the downside of these medications, and it will deter people from getting the help they need,” says Mark Wolraich, professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. “Medication is clearly effective in the short-term for treating the symptoms you see with ADHD.”

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