Some doctors are prescribing drugs meant for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to children who do not suffer from the disorder to improve their grades.
Dr. Michael Anderson, a pediatrician in Cherokee County, Georgia, told The New York Times: "I don’t have a whole lot of choice. We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid."
Anderson prescribes ADHD drugs such as Adderall and Concerta to low-income children who get bad grades to improve their ability to focus and concentrate.
Anderson said he sees himself as a "social justice thinker" who is "evening the scales a little bit" because these poor kids are "mismatched with their environment."
Low-income families cannot afford to pay for tutoring and counseling for their children, so medication is the most logical way to help the students achieve success, according to Anderson.
"People who are getting A’s and B’s, I won’t give it to them," Anderson added.
"We are seeing this more and more," Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a child psychiatrist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told The Times. "We are using a chemical straitjacket instead of doing things that are just as important to also do, sometimes more."
These types of prescription medications can be addictive, and cause side effects such as higher blood pressure and suppression of natural growth.
Dr. William Graf, a pediatrician in New Haven, Connecticut, believes families can decide if Adderall will help a child who does not have ADHD, but thinks the child should be closely monitored. He expressed concerned that these types of prescriptions may interfere with "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," Graf added. "There’s an obligation for parents, doctors and teachers to respect the authenticity issue, and I’m not sure that’s always happening."
Some teenagers abuse these types of drugs because of grade pressure and competition to get into colleges (where undergraduates are known to use the medications, as well), according to a 2012 report by The New York Times.
"It’s throughout all the private schools here," DeAnsin Parker, a New York City psychologist who treats many teens from wealthy families, told the newspaper at the time. "It’s not as if there is one school where this is the culture. This is the culture."
Teens told the The New York Times that they were getting the ADHD drugs from their buddies and student drug dealers; some said they faked ADHD symptoms so their doctors would write prescriptions.