ADHD warnings

New warnings about psychiatric side effects will be added to the label of drugs used to treat children for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The FDA is reacting to “reports of hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, psychotic behavior and aggression” among users of Ritalin and similar drugs.

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  1. …hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, psychotic behavior and aggression” among users of Ritalin and similar drugs.

    That’s not so bad; they’ve got to learn to ‘maintain’ sooner or later. Might as well do so before hormonal changes make things more difficult.

  2. Are we gonna let all of the diabetics learn to “maintain” too? What about all of those who are suffering with clinical depression? ADHD is a chemical imbalance in the brain – you can’t just “get over it” any more than you can “get over” diabetes.

    I am an educator and have done a lot of research on ADHD, mainly because my husband and two of my 3 kids have it. I can walk in the classroom each year and pretty much pick out which of my kids are ADHD because I am so familiar with the symptoms.

    I had a student this past year who was almost a high school washout instead of a high school graduate. In junior high he got so frustrated in school because nothing he was hearing was sinking in. His freshman year he got into drugs and his parents sent him off to a survival school to clean him up. Once he returned, he was evaluated by a psychologist and found to have ADHD. He is now on Ritalin and is a totally different young man. He likes school now because he can actually remember things and pay attention in the classroom. His grades went up to A’s and B’s and he just graduated this past May. He told me that Ritalin changed his life, and I believe it.

    Every drug is going to have some sort of side effect. The parents need to be the ones not panicking when they see a new warning like this one – they need to be diligent and watch their kids for signs of trouble. I have a daughter currently on antidepressants (she is 16), and I watch her like a hawk, and she talks to me about how the drug makes her feel. I watch for suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and that’s what other parents should do as well.

    Please do not assume that all people can just “get over” ADHD – some do outgrow the symptoms, others come up with their own coping mechanisms (like my husband). Some of these people will need medication their entire lives, but they should be on the lookout for problems and not qutting the drug because a handful of people are having side effects.

  3. Who said anything about ‘getting over’ ADHD? My point (if I had one) was about learning to manage the side- (and primary-) effects of meds. Most of those side-effects sound like a typical day in the life of a pre-adolescent or adolescent student (you mean that’s NOT normal?)

    Seriously though, I am concerned that drugs can be used to mask deficiencies in the school environment, but short of fixing same, medication is probably a humane substitute even in cases where the diagnosis is incorrect.

  4. Bart,

    It is common medical practice to withdraw medication if adverse side effects occur. (That crazy “first do no harm” idea.) When those side effects are not described by the manufacturer of the drug, the physician might not think to withhold the drug or monitor the patient for those side effects.

    Most teenagers are weird but they are not psychotic. Suicidal thoughts are not something to joke about – people who are suicidal need treatment. With those kids, it’s important to change to a different medication or withhold the meds or change the dose.

    The problem with these drugs is that their high level of use makes these side effects more common and many parents are not properly educated about the risk associated with them. Parents and patients need to know this stuff so that they can make informed decisions. These are not side effects that you just adapt to.

  5. Jill wrote:

    ADHD is a chemical imbalance in the brain – you can’t just “get over it” any more than you can “get over” diabetes.

    I know that’s a commonly held point of view but could point to some research to support that assertion?

    I can walk in the classroom each year and pretty much pick out which of my kids are ADHD because I am so familiar with the symptoms.

    With all due respect to your observational skills, I sure would feel better if there was some less subjective way of identifying ADHD.

  6. “ADHD is a chemical imbalance in the brain”

    There is no evidence for this. Why are there so many children these days diagnosed with this condition? In my elementary school the standard class size was the legal maximum – 36. No one was on Ritalin. Teachers were able to maintain an orderly classroom.

    What has changed? First, how children are raised. Enough children come from chaotic, disfunctional families or are simply not taught to obey adults to overwhelm a teacher with 20 students. It is no longer practical to manage the one or two students in the classroom who find it physically difficult to concentrate.

    The second thing that has change is schools. It is well known that children with ADHD benefit from a highly structured environment with clear expectations and consequences. The entire school was once such an environment. No teacher had to post the “rules” because there were common, well understood expectations about how students and teachers behaved. Consider even such a simple practice as screwing the desks into the floor in rows so that the desks faced the teacher. Many students seem to have trouble controlling themselves in constructivist classroom settings. Finally, I think boys are not getting enough vigorous exercise during the school day and after. I remember running to and from school every day, going home for lunch, segregated gym classes three times a week and recess on the playground every schoool day. In the evening my mom would throw us out of the house to get us out of her hair and play with our friends. For the most part neighborhoods like the one I grew up in no longer even exist.

    Now I am not at all opposed to medicating children with ADHD and I know that many of them benefit greatly. There is, however, a huge cultural dimension to the “problem” which is largely unacknowledged.

  7. In the good old days before forced-draft school attendance, the ADHD “race” would find their own place in the world. Many became explorers, pioneers, woodsmen, even soldiers and sailors (if they could later handle military discipline). Some became merchants and traders. Some, like Edison, became inventors, and managed to educate themselves better than any teacher.

    Maybe it’s impractical to look back in that way; but the world is more than a soviet-style factory. There are many opportunities open to the independent-minded.