Are ADHD medications overprescribed to children?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Some critics say that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications are overprescribed to children. However, others believe that many children with ADHD are being underserved. In 1998, less than three percent of children in elementary school were taking medications regularly, although 99 percent of these medications were stimulant medications for ADHD. So, while the total number of children taking ADHD medications is small, ADHD medications account for most prescription medication use at schools.

The National Resource Center on ADHD advises doctors who treat children with ADHD to closely monitor children taking ADHD medications. The National Resource Center on ADHD also reports that the use of stimulant medications for ADHD is increasing. However, experts are not sure whether this is due to a rise in diagnoses and treatment or whether children are receiving medications for ADHD who would not have received them in the past.

Every medication has risks, but your doc always tries to make sure the benefits outweigh the risks. If taken as directed, no matter how old you are the vast majority of medications treat conditions, including ADHD, with benefit greater than harm. That’s why they go through a rigorous approval process at the FDA before they are available to the public. That being said, you may still experience side effects. Before giving you a prescription, your doctor will carefully review your child’s medical history and other medications he is already taking to minimize the risks of harmful drug interactions. In addition, he will explain all of the potential side effects of the medication. If once your child starts taking the medication and you are concerned about it, talk to your doctor and he can make adjustments in doses or even change medications completely. And as Mehmet and I state repeatedly, if you are to take something for more than three days, get a second opinion as soon as possible. It doesn’t mean don’t start it, it means get that second opinion as soon as possible.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.