"My 7 year old son doesn't want to take his Ritalin anymore. It makes him feel YUCK!" This is the gist of a post that went crazy on a Facebook page set up for locals in our area. After about 200 comments a member of the group took the initiative and started a separate Facebook Page called "Ritalin + the Alternatives".
If you want to cause World War 3 just mention the "R" word. It doesn't matter if you know anything about ADHD or not. Everyone has an opinion. "Half of my child's class is on Ritalin", "An entire grade in my child's school is on Ritalin and they are being given this stuff without prescription". "The teacher insists my child has to go on Ritalin". "It worked for my child". "Stop drugging your kids". Blah blah blah.
Those who have ADHD in their family may mention Concerta which has the same active ingredient as Ritalin. They may also mention Strattera which is also used to treat ADHD.
Then of course there are the diets, the good and bad foods, and a vast array of nutriceuticals and other treatments. But nothing stirs up the emotions as much as the word Ritalin. I could almost feel the blood and vitriol spurting out through the ether as the slanging matches gathered momentum.
As the end of year exams draw near, this debate about Ritalin hots up. More prescriptions are written to supposedly help children and teens achieve better results. Who is writing these prescriptions and on what basis are they justifying their decisions to give a particular person ADHD medication?
If this medication is being obtained without the necessary monthly prescription who is supplying the medication?
These are the questions that should be asked.
At LADD® we repeatedly say, and I have to confess that I join the Facebook bunfights, that ADHD medication has a role to play in a multi-disciplinary treatment plan for managing ADHD. See Dave's article on Medication only being 12.5% of a good treatment plan.
There is no magic bullet and no one thing works. ADHD is a complex condition and requires a thorough diagnosis and the medication needs to be constantly monitored. What we need to remember is ADHD medication makes you aware that you have been distracted, the primary characteristic of ADHD, but you still need to learn the life skills and tools necessary to manage the ADHD.
Watch this video clip to see how Ritalin and Concerta work in the brain.
Is it really ADHD?
There are many conditions that look like ADHD but aren't. Teachers can not, and should not, tell any parent to put their child on Ritalin or any other medication. They can and should suggest that the parents take their child for an assessment to see why the child is not reaching his or her potential.
We live in a violent society with a great deal of family trauma and poverty. Teachers and Medical Professionals should be looking out for some of the following situations that may be causing ADHD-type symptoms:
- Is the child hungry? No-one can concentrate on an empty stomach.
- Is the family going through a break-up?
- Is Dad or Mom having to live elsewhere in order to earn a living?
- Is there even a Mom or Dad around?
- What time does the child have to get up to get to school? Does the child even have a roof over his or her head? It is not only those who live in our informal settlements who are battling poverty. It is happening in our middle class schools too.
- Has the child been involved in, or witness to a violent crime?
- Is the child emotionally immature?
- Is there bullying going on within the school or in the home environment?
- Is the child being sexually or emotionally abused?
A simple question to ask yourself. Could you focus if you were struggling with any one of the above situations? If not, how can a child be expected to?
There are of course many other aspects that Medical Professionals consider when making an ADHD diagnosis. Teachers can - should - educate themselves about ADHD and learn how to manage ADHD in their classes a little better.
Parents, don't be bullied into making decisions until you are sure you fully understand all the implications of a diagnosis. Make a list of your questions and fears and demand that your medical professional answers your questions to your satisfaction. On the other hand, don't reject medication out of hand. It has its place alongside a loving family, adequate nutrition, exercise and the correct therapy to overcome specific disabilities.
If you are a parent, educator or medical professional and would like to learn more about ADHD, sign up for our brand new Online ADHD Parenting Course by clicking on this link.