Guest Blogs

The ADHD Medication Bias

I sensed that this doctor has an underlying bias: a belief that bad families and lazy parents are often the underlying problems with attention deficit disorder.

I don’t think there’s a parent alive who wouldn’t struggle with the decision of whether or not their child with ADHD should take medication. I know that when I took that leap and decided to start my daughter, Natalie, on Ritalin, I cried off and on for a week! This decision is not something parents take lightly.

And I know that, like me, ADDitude readers are on a constant quest for information: for expert advice about the best ADHD treatment modalities, the most effective parenting strategies, and the tools to make us well-informed advocates for our children. We’re not lazy parents looking to ADHD medication for a quick, easy fix. If I were, I wouldn’t be writing this. If you were, you wouldn’t be reading it.

And I’m ranting about this because…

Earlier this week, I attended a free seminar (yeah, right — I paid in angst) given by a local psychiatrist on the topic of how medications affect children’s brains. The talk was not at all what I was expecting. Imagine this, if you can: a psychiatrist coming off as being pretty strongly anti-medication for kids — and the first diagnosis he mentioned was ADHD.

I really challenged myself to set aside my reality — what I believe to be true about ADHD and other disorders — and try to hear his message. I’ll admit, I couldn’t really do it.

He did make some excellent points — about how little is known about the long-term effects of certain medications on a child’s developing brain. And, about the importance of looking at the whole picture. Could cognitive behavioral therapy change patterns in the family? Could processed foods and food additives, and a lack of essential nutrients, like Omega 3s play a role in ADHD? Could too much screen time be part of the problem? Well, yes, yes, and yes. But I’m convinced that with perfect parenting (let’s not go there) and perfect nutrition (we’ve made huge improvements) and no screen time (are you kidding me? even medicated, she can’t sit still long enough to have too much screen time) my child would still need medication.

Are there children out there who are taking Ritalin and a variety of psychiatric meds who don’t really need to? I’m sure there are. But the doctor never really answered this question: Under what circumstances would he believe that prescribing medication is an appropriate decision? It depends on the symptoms. And those would be…?

I hate to say it, and this is purely my opinion, but I sensed that this doctor has an underlying bias: a belief that bad families and lazy parents are often the problem. But if that’s the case, why even give a seminar? Lazy parents would never attend.

For parents who would chose to attend such a seminar — for me, a parent who did — I’m left feeling that this doctor went beyond “preaching to the choir,” which would be unnecessary, but fairly innocuous. No, for me, his message was more like rubbing salt in an open wound.

I wonder if all the social workers who attended (Oh god, NO!!!) felt differently.

ADHD Medication Dilemma