10,000 Toddlers are Taking ADHD Medication

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.”


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thomas lartin
thomas lartin3 years ago

It is pretty sketchy to me that kids at such a young age can be seen as having ADHD and the given drugs so quickly. I am surprised so many parents go along with this as well.

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Randi Levin
Randi Levin3 years ago

As One highly trained and experienced in Special Ed and Psych. I will say that any parent giving their babies and toddlers ADHD meds is a lousy parent at best that needs to take some very deep and serious parenting classes to learn how to be a parent and accept that there are many sacrifices parents must make to ensure the physical and mental health of their children.

A toddler should be active redirected, hyper to an extent and again redirected as that is how a child learns to be safe without the needs of meds.

And BY THE WAY---Many of these parents food choices can induce ADD or ADHD like symptoms--Ie too much sugar gives a rush and then crashes into Crankiness!


Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

I believe ADHD does exist, however, not in the numbers that are "diagnosed". The medicated "ADHD" kids that I know (several) are fed a complete junk food diet full of sugars, live on sodas and sugared juices and are uncontrollable by useless parents (extended family). I have never seen these kids eat an actual healthy meal. And with the kids higher than a kite on sugars all the time, they resort to meds to try to control their behavior instead of correcting the problem.

I believe the actual ADHD has been brought on kids by toxins in everything they are made to wear, play with, eat and drink.

Kathie Null
Kathie Null3 years ago

My mom forwarded the article to me, and I must say, I am highly offended at the vast majority of the comments. Would I drug a toddler? No. I too believe that hyperactivity and short attention span is age appropriate. However, there are some very gross generalizations made by people who really have ZERO experience in this realm. It's very easy to say "lazy parents" when you haven't been there. I am the adoptive mother of a 9-y/o from the foster care system. She has PTSD, RAD, SPD, food issues, and ADHD. We held out as long as we could with meds. She has seen a psychologist for years, and is in a small private school that has a good reputation for kids with special needs. However, her behaviors have increasingly worsened over the past few years, and a joint meeting with all her teachers, psychologist and psychiatrist determined the need for meds. Is it perfect? No. Is it an improvement? Yes. This child has loving involved parents, caring teachers, therapy, and it still wasn't enough. ADHD may not exist all by itself, more as a symptom of her other diagnoses. But you folks that say it doesn't exist at all and that I'm lazy, can go to hell.

Steve McCrea
Steve McCrea3 years ago

Of course, this is all very stupid. What is a "short attention span" for a two year old?

Just as important, we are often told that "untreated ADHD" increases the odds of a host of problems, like delinquency, school failure, dropping out, teen pregnancy, employment instability, and on and on.

What we are NOT told is that stimulant drugs DO NOT IMPROVE any of those outcome areas!!! ADHD-diagnosed kids who take stimulants have never been shown to benefit long-term, academically, behaviorally, or socially, when compared to those who do not. In fact, in the Raine study from Australia, kids who took stimulants were 9 times MORE likely to drop out of school than those who did not!

Additionally, there is good evidence that "ADHD" kids do just fine in a Montessouri or other child-centered, open-classroom environments, to the extent that they are virtually indistinguishable from "normal" children in those venues. We should be focusing our efforts on creating good environments where kids are not only allowed but encouraged to be active learners, and stop punishing our more active youngsters for simply being who they are. I say this after having successfully raised two "ADHD" kid using open classrooms and creative, positive behavior management. It was not easy, but they both turned out to be very healthy and productive adults.

Drugging toddlers for being active would be like drugging dogs for wagging their tails. Their active behavior is NORMAL!!!!

---- Steve

Bonnie Bowen
Bonnie Bowen3 years ago

TODDLERS? And who are these unscrupulous doctors?

Debrah Roemisch
Debrah Roemisch3 years ago

Absurd and scary to medicate toddlers for ADHD especially since that is the normal state of being a toddler!
Nature Deficient Disorder is probably the main cause of behavior problems along with fake food like substances --get those kids on healthy foods and lots of physical activity!

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K3 years ago

How is it even possible for a two or three year old to be engaged in behavior that requires medication? They are small enough that you can turn a closet into a padded cell and let them have at it until they exhaust themselves. This is just crazy, and dangerous.

On the other hand, reading the first dozen comments, I see almost everyone agrees that there is no such thing as ADHD and that Ritalin is a scam, a principled position held especially strongly by those who do not know how to spell it...

Norma Villarreal
Norma Villarreal3 years ago

What? Let's damage their immune systems, why don't we...