There is a lot of pressure placed on students to succeed and many of them are turning to what teens call the "good grade pill". What is it? Prescription stimulants that are commonly used to treat children with ADHD. Teens that have not been diagnosed with ADHD have figured out that with the help of these drugs, they can focus and improve their grades. I see a lot of kids who have attentional issues and I evaluate and treat children for ADHD. With that being said, I also spend a great deal of time with each family looking at their child's history, report cards, teacher comments, educational testing and subjective ADHD rating scales. While many families would like it if I just "wrote a script for a stimulant", I feel it is my job to try and determine to the best of my ability, which children really fit the diagnosis of ADHD. (There are specific criteria for diagnosing ADHD). But in the last 3-5 years I personally have seen more and more teenage patients coming to me with complaints of "having ADHD". These are successful teens who are now in competitive schools. In most of the cases there have never been any previous complaints of difficulty with focusing or inattentiveness. All are typically A and B students but are now having to work harder to keep their grades up, and to also keep up all of their extracurricular activities. They too all want to go to "great colleges" and their parents expect that of them as well. When I see these teens, I point out to them that there has never been mention of school difficulties throughout their elementary and middle school years. I also tell them that ADHD symptoms by definition are typically evident by the time a child is 7 years of age, and often earlier. So what do you do? I don't take out the script pad. I believe that stimulant medications are useful when used appropriately. I am also well aware that these drugs are overprescribed and are also being abused. I have had parents (and teens) be quite upset with me when I decline to write a script for stimulant medication for their teen. I think that this problem is growing and (we) parents need to stop pressuring our children and (we) doctors need to be vigilant in deciding when stimulant medications are appropriate. It is a slippery slope, but the number of teens obtaining stimulants illegally is on the rise. Why? They hear that this is a quick fix to getting good grades. It may help their grades for the short term, but what does their long-term future look like? I'm Dr. Sue with The Kid's Doctor helping parents take charge.
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