Our culture is truly “pill happy,” meaning that everything and anything can be fixed with the pop of a pill. While medications can truly be lifesaving to the elderly, diseased or extremely sick, the new “pill generation” is spreading to the youth of our nation. According to a study completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 5 children reported using at least one prescription drug. Many health care professionals and researchers are beginning to question if children truly need to be medicated at such a young age, and are they being misdiagnosed? Unfortunately the misdiagnoses of mental disorders such as ADHD in children are more common than we would like to believe.
Approximately 11 percent of all children in the United States have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, making ADHD the most common disorder that children are being diagnosed with . This leads to a rising concern that not all children are being properly diagnosed and in some cases may be misdiagnosed. Signs of ADHD are inattentiveness or being extremely overactive and a slower developmental level in certain areas of their lives. The diagnosis of ADHD is purely based on the child’s behavior as there are no objective tests to base the condition on.
Many children based on this point may be less mature than other students, or may need different behavioral parenting training.  Not all children who have been diagnosed with ADHD have it to the extent of needing the medication used to treat it; however, their parents are still advised by doctors to continue their medication.
A leading factor in diagnosing ADHD in children is inattentiveness. However, even though inattention is one of the key indicators of ADHD, there are many reasons why a child could become distracted in school. Children, especially in elementary and middle school, have many developmental changes occurring. A child’s inattentiveness could be caused by emotional issues, grieving over a death in the family, or being picked on by their peers, all causing them to seem distracted throughout the school day. They may also display certain behaviors outside of school that teachers typically do not get to witness.
If a child is misdiagnosed with ADHD, it is still possible that they have another form of a behavioral issue going on. According to childmind.org, other possibilities of these disorders separate from ADHD can include: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or a Learning Disorder.
As well as ADHD medication there is currently a growing trend of children being assigned antipsychotic drugs. According to RT.com, psychiatrists prescribe antipsychotic drugs to children in one third of all visits. While many of these antipsychotic drugs are not intended to treat troublesome behaviors and ADHD, it does not stop doctors from prescribing them to child patients. Alongside the negative physical side effects, repetitious pill use can leave a strong emotional impact on a child’s mind. As a teen, they may begin to struggle with substance use to continue self medicating. In some cases the child will grow up to have worse behavioral issues than when they were younger.
As with many of the mood disorders, we may find that using medications, especially on the very young, may cause long term harm that we do not currently foresee. We must ask ourselves, what is the goal of medicating these children; to make life easier for them or for the people around them? Do we truly want an entire generation of people to look to a pill each time they feel out of control of their feelings or actions? What about the long term effects of the diagnosis itself? Certainly telling young children that there is something wrong with their brain can put them at a distinct disadvantage in life. Too much has yet to be discovered about ADHD and the long term effects of medicating children; and there is no doubt that there is a significant over-diagnosis within certain areas in this country that must be addressed.
Melissa currently writes for Saint Jude Retreats, a non-treatment alternative to traditional alcohol and drug rehab. As well as writing for St. Jude’s, Melissa also enjoys writing about topics that include health and relationships.