- Some public schools are accusing parents of child abuse
when they balk at giving their kids drugs such as Ritalin, and as judges
begin to agree, some parents are medicating their children for fear of
having them hauled away.
- It's an emerging twist in the growing debate about diagnosing
and medicating children with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention
deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): An Albany, N.Y., couple put
their 7-year-old son back on Ritalin after a family court ruled that they
must continue medicating him for ADD.
- Child protective services visited another New York couple
to check out anonymous allegations of "medical neglect" after
they took their son off Ritalin and other drugs because of side effects,
the couple said.
- "This is relatively new, but it's happening,"
says Maryland psychiatrist Peter Breggin, who is aware of similar cases
in Boston. Often, he says, divorced parents disagree on medicating kids,
and judges recently have ruled in favor of the parent who wants to medicate.
The Albany case is the first pitting educators against parents that progressed
to a judge's ruling.
- "This is going to be happening more and more,"
says psychologist Peter Jensen, who is on the board of Children and Adults
With Attention Deficit Disorder, a parents group that advocates combining
drug and behavior treatments.
- As many as 3.8 million schoolchildren are diagnosed with
ADD/ADHD, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- At least 2 million take Ritalin, a stimulant, for symptoms
such as inattentiveness, impulsivity and sometimes hyperactivity.
- Many others are treated with different drugs.
- Research shows that medication improves the abilities
of ADHD children. "It's becoming increasingly clear that this is a
powerful treatment that can be lifesaving for some children," Jensen
says. "The risk for severe ADHD going untreated is not trivial."
- But should parents be forced to put their children on
- The long-term effects of children taking stimulants have
not been studied.
- And psychology professor William Frankenberger, who has
studied ADD/ADHD at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for more than
20 years, says it's "disturbing to take a decision like that out of
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