Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Giving Low-Scoring Students ADHD Pills To Raise Their Scores

We must raise test scores by any means necessary - even by drugging the kids and diminishing their authentic development as humans.

That's the take away from this horrifying story in this morning's New York Times:

CANTON, Ga. — When Dr. Michael Anderson hears about his low-income patients struggling in elementary school, he usually gives them a taste of some powerful medicine: Adderall. 

The pills boost focus and impulse control in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although A.D.H.D is the diagnosis Dr. Anderson makes, he calls the disorder “made up” and “an excuse” to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children’s true ill — poor academic performance in inadequate schools. 

“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.” 

Dr. Anderson is one of the more outspoken proponents of an idea that is gaining interest among some physicians. They are prescribing stimulants to struggling students in schools starved of extra money — not to treat A.D.H.D., necessarily, but to boost their academic performance. 

It is not yet clear whether Dr. Anderson is representative of a widening trend. But some experts note that as wealthy students abuse stimulants to raise already-good grades in colleges and high schools, the medications are being used on low-income elementary school children with faltering grades and parents eager to see them succeed. 


Dr. Anderson’s instinct, he said, is that of a “social justice thinker” who is “evening the scales a little bit.” He said that the children he sees with academic problems are essentially “mismatched with their environment” — square pegs chafing the round holes of public education. Because their families can rarely afford behavior-based therapies like tutoring and family counseling, he said, medication becomes the most reliable and pragmatic way to redirect the student toward success. 

The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies these drugs as "Schedule II Controlled Substances because they are particularly addictive." 

We do not know what the long term side effects are. 

It is quite possible children will become dependent upon these drugs long into adulthood - perhaps for the rest of their lives. 

And what are the effects of taking these drugs on a child's emotional and psychological development?

Doctors really don't know, but you can be sure it isn't good.

Take the case of this family who have all of their kids prescribed with these drugs:

On the Rocafort family’s kitchen shelf in Ball Ground, Ga., next to the peanut butter and chicken broth, sits a wire basket brimming with bottles of the children’s medications, prescribed by Dr. Anderson: Adderall for Alexis, 12; and Ethan, 9; Risperdal (an antipsychotic for mood stabilization) for Quintn and Perry, both 11; and Clonidine (a sleep aid to counteract the other medications) for all four, taken nightly. 

Quintn began taking Adderall for A.D.H.D. about five years ago, when his disruptive school behavior led to calls home and in-school suspensions. He immediately settled down and became a more earnest, attentive student — a little bit more like Perry, who also took Adderall for his A.D.H.D.
When puberty’s chemical maelstrom began at about 10, though, Quintn got into fights at school because, he said, other children were insulting his mother. The problem was, they were not; Quintn was seeing people and hearing voices that were not there, a rare but recognized side effect of Adderall. After Quintn admitted to being suicidal, Dr. Anderson prescribed a week in a local psychiatric hospital, and a switch to Risperdal. 

While telling this story, the Rocaforts called Quintn into the kitchen and asked him to describe why he was had been given Adderall. 

“To help me focus on my school work, my homework, listening to Mom and Dad, and not doing what I used to do to my teachers, to make them mad,” he said. He described the week in the hospital and the effects of Risperdal: “If I don’t take my medicine I’d be having attitudes. I’d be disrespecting my parents. I wouldn’t be like this.” 

Despite Quintn’s experience with Adderall, the Rocaforts decided to use it with their 12-year-old daughter, Alexis, and 9-year-old son, Ethan. These children don’t have A.D.H.D., their parents said. The Adderall is merely to help their grades, and because Alexis was, in her father’s words, “a little blah.” 

”We’ve seen both sides of the spectrum: we’ve seen positive, we’ve seen negative,” the father, Rocky Rocafort, said. Acknowledging that Alexis’s use of Adderall is “cosmetic,” he added, “If they’re feeling positive, happy, socializing more, and it’s helping them, why wouldn’t you? Why not?”
Dr. William Graf, a pediatrician and child neurologist who serves many poor families in New Haven, said that a family should be able to choose for itself whether Adderall can benefit its non-A.D.H.D. child, and that a physician can ethically prescribe a trial as long as side effects are closely monitored. He expressed concern, however, that the rising use of stimulants in this manner can threaten what he called “the authenticity of development.” 

“These children are still in the developmental phase, and we still don’t know how these drugs biologically affect the developing brain,” he said. “There’s an obligation for parents, doctors and teachers to respect the authenticity issue, and I’m not sure that’s always happening.” 

Dr. Anderson said that every child he treats with A.D.H.D. medication has met qualifications. But he also railed against those criteria, saying they were codified only to “make something completely subjective look objective.” He added that teacher reports almost invariably come back as citing the behaviors that would warrant a diagnosis, a decision he called more economic than medical. 

“The school said if they had other ideas they would,” Dr. Anderson said. “But the other ideas cost money and resources compared to meds.”
 This is one of the consequences of the education reform movement - succeed at school at any cost.  Never mind the emotional development of the children, just get the test scores up and the behaviors pacified.

I wonder what the drug addiction and alcoholism rates for this generation are going to be after they've been taught since childhood to just take a pill when things aren't going well for you.

This is wrong, pure and simple, and it will lead to very bad consequences in the long term.

You can see some of the consequences already in the short term in the experience of the Rocafort family and their son Quintn's psychotic episode.

Oh, well - nothing to be done but get those test scores up.

As Geoffrey Canada once said on Education Nation, there's no time to do anything else but focus on what works to get the scores up.

1 comment:

  1. Scary stuff,this.I'm a recently retired S/L therapist who did 28 years in NYC Public schools. working with children of the working poor and lower middle classes.What I saw during those years was as heartbreaking as this stuff is scary.School administrators trying to force the idea of these meds on reluctant parents, children hallucinating about deaths of non-existent siblings,mood swings just short of bipolar from a potent mix of cheap pill form steroids for asthma and raging hormones, and a parent who pulled her child from my program because I counseled her to run by her family doctor a proposed "experimental (off-label) usage of an anti anxiety med for her daughter's stuttering ,which did not manifest in school and was primarily caused by the pressure the girl was under from mom. When I'd done a side effect search of the med on PDR.com, mentioned were seizures and several cancers.Please ,please.please, somethings gotta give with these meds!