Saturday, January 11, 2003
A new study out of Harvard Medical School should quell some fears about prescribing stimulants like Ritalin to youngsters who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
But it won't quiet the debate.
As more children have been identified with ADHD in recent years - and in turn prescribed pharmaceuticals - critics have worried about misdiagnosis and needless medication. One particularly common concern has been that children treated with medical stimulants would in turn seek out and become addicted to illegal stimulants.
In fact, say researchers from Havard Medical School, the reverse is true. Children treated medically have about half the rate of drug abuse as ADHD children who go untreated. Researchers theorize that untreated ADHD sufferers turn to drugs they find themselves in an attempt to self-medicate or ameliorate feelings of low self-worth.
Ritalin and other such medications will not reduce drug use among those who do not suffer from ADHD.
The Harvard study, published in this month's issue of Pediatrics, is fairly small - about 1,000 participants - and its authors hope to conduct additional analyses. This report hardly addresses the concerns about inappropriate diagnoses or prescriptions, but it represents an important step toward addressing some unfounded worries. That should allow greater concentration on those that remain.