The most common behavioral disorder of childhood is Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, experts are concerned with the number of kids being prescribed strong medications for it at extremely young ages.
According to the CDC, in the United States, 10,000 toddlers are diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medications like Ritalin and Adderall. In many cases, these are 2- and 3-year-old children being given drugs that are meant for much older kids. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has no guidelines for ADHD in children under four.
So how are they being prescribed medication, and is it safe?
According to experts, probably not.
“We’re giving Adderall to 2-year-olds? I mean, that’s nuts,” Dr. Lawrence H. Diller, a behavioral pediatrician told the TODAY Show.
“There’s no evidence that it works. There’s no evidence that it’s safe. These are desperate measures.”
ADHD medications are known for causing a variety of side effects. In children the side effects can be even more severe and include stunted growth, insomnia and loss of appetite.
Though the number of toddlers on strong medications is worrying enough, it has also been found that more than 7 percent of kids are on some sort of medication to modify their emotions or behaviors.
In recent years, the number of kids taking medication for behavioral problems has increased significantly. More and more often, medications are used to treat mental health problems rather than any other kind of treatment.
It simply may be that more kids have behavioral problems, but some believe the children are being medicated unnecessarily. Not every hyperactive moment is a sign of ADHD, just like not every cough is a sign of laryngitis.
There are children who have the kind of behavioral or emotional problems that require medication as treatment, but most experts agree medications are not a one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, many are calling for more research to be done on them, especially on the effects of ADHD medications being taken by someone who may be as young as two.
Because so little is known in that area, the large number of young children on ADHD medications is concerning. Some question how you tell the difference between a hyperactive toddler and a normal one. As one dad told the TODAY Show, “I don’t get how you diagnose somebody. I mean, if they’re hyper, or all over the place, you probably have a two-year-old.”