Target: Arne Duncan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education
Goal: Cease the over-prescription of A.D.H.D. drugs to students
Over the past decade an ever-increasing number of children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.) and subsequently prescribed drugs such as Adderall and Concerta. Oftentimes overwhelmed teachers and school officials do not feel they can cope with their students, so they send them to doctors. Rather than reexamine the educational process or reach out and connect with students in an attempt to get to the root of their problems, officials are far more willing to send students to a doctor to get a prescription for a quick fix.
Although Adderall does improve alertness, impulse control, and attentiveness in children, it is primarily used to treat what is deemed to be substandard academic achievement. Children in low-income areas with failing school systems are the ones most commonly prescribed Adderall-like drugs in a desperate attempt to control impetuous students and to hopefully boost their grades.
Doctors say that they do not have much of a choice in the matter and that there are both institutional and societal pressures placed upon them to aid these children. Many even acknowledge the problem and admit that A.D.H.D is a flimsy excuse.
School officials have decided that it is just too expensive to do anything other than change the student, and Adderall has been declared the best way to that. Approaches such as therapy and tutoring, though effective, are simply too expensive for many low-income families. Similarly, school systems have come to the decision that it is just too much work to change the classroom experience and teaching methods compared with how easy it is to put a student on Adderall.
Side effects of the drug include growth suppression, high blood pressure, and in rare cases, psychotic episodes; the long-term effects are not yet fully understood. It also poses a risk in terms of it being illegally traded.
It is simply unacceptable that students’ health and safety are being sacrificed because school systems are too cheap or too lazy to spend time helping students. A catchall diagnosis, given out by doctors like candy, should not be the method of choice to improve student grades. Tell the Department of Education that the quickest, cheapest fix, an Adderall prescription, should not be the primary way to help struggling students.
Dear Mr. Duncan,
Over the past decade, we have seen the number of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.) steadily rise. Today, the number of children considered to have A.D.H.D. is well into the millions. Many medical professionals are coming around to the belief that most A.D.H.D. diagnoses are invalid and have become little more than a vehicle for the prescription of stimulants like Adderall, which can curb impulsiveness and increase attentiveness in struggling students.
Students, especially those from low-income families or from struggling school districts, are oftentimes referred to doctors (many of whom will give an A.D.H.D. diagnosis and an Adderall prescription with little fuss) by teachers and school officials who either cannot or will not take the time to help a child.
Many school districts have decided that helping students individually or reshaping the classroom experience is not cost effective when they can quickly and easily have a doctor chemically alter the child. Side effects of Adderall drugs similar to it include sleep deprivation, high blood pressure, growth suppression, and in rare cases, dangerous psychotic episodes.
Tutoring and counseling are good treatments, but are simply not a viable option for many low-income families—the schools must take that initiative. It is imperative that the Department of Education, in conjunction with individual states, reexamines how struggling students are dealt with. Simply giving students potentially dangerous drugs is not the right solution. We must deal with students as individuals, and restructure class time in a way that will be accessible to students.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: hipsxxhearts via flickr