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Stimulants should not be Prescribed to Children without ADHD, Neurologists Say

Mar 14, 2013 08:14 AM EDT

ADHD medication should not be given to children without the disorder, said the American Academy of Neurology in a position statement. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of children taking these medications as "study drugs" to improve test scores.

Stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall are prescribed for children with ADHD. Previous research has shown that these anti-ADHD drugs improve kids' tests scores. However, few parents request doctors to prescribe these drugs to their kids, even when the kid doesn't meet the criteria of ADHD.

Some 3.5 percent of all children in the U.S. have received stimulant medication in 2008, which is higher than 2.4 percent of children who got the drugs in the late 90s.

"Doctors caring for children and teens have a professional obligation to always protect the best interests of the child, to protect vulnerable populations, and prevent the misuse of medication. The practice of prescribing these drugs, called neuroenhancements, for healthy students is not justifiable," said author William Graf, M.D., of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology in a statement.

Graf added that physicians can talk to the child about the request, as it may show underlying depression or phobia."There are alternatives to neuroenhancements available, including maintaining good sleep, nutrition, study habits and exercise regimens," said Graf.

Dr. Mark Wolraich, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center said that the drug will lead to unnecessary fear around these drugs. "The paper may have an unfavorable impact. I worry that we're focusing too much on the downside and it will deter people from getting the help they need. We have a lot of good evidence about the use [of medications] and it is clearly effective in the short term for treating the symptoms you see with ADHD," Wolraich told HealthDay.

The statement has been published in the journal Neurology

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