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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Should Doctors Prescribe Toddlers Stimulants?

The prescription drug epidemic in America is not limited to opioids and sedatives; prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall are prescribed in the millions and are frequently abused by teenagers and young adults. What’s more, there are more than 10,000 toddlers prescribed Ritalin and Adderall for ADHD despite the fact that very little is known about the effects of such drugs on that age group, the New York Times reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report determined that 2- and 3-year-olds covered by Medicaid had a high likelihood to be prescribed Ritalin and Adderall. Many experts criticize the use of stimulant medications on such a young age group and many believe that doctors who prescribe stimulants to toddlers should face malpractice chargers if a child is hurt in any way. Dr. Lawrence H. Diller, a behavioral pediatrician in Walnut Creek, Calif., told the newspaper: “People prescribing to 2-year-olds are just winging it. It is outside the standard of care, and they should be subject to malpractice if something goes wrong with a kid.”

Currently, Adderall is the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration FDA for children below age 6. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) altered their guidelines to allow 4- and 5-year-olds to be prescribed Adderall after they saw encouraging results due to off-label prescribing to preschoolers. The AAP states that such drugs should only be used after formal training for parents and teachers to change the child’s environment failed.

The new guidelines do not cover children under age 4 because hyperactivity and impulsivity are developmentally appropriate for toddlers, according to several experts. Why doctors are prescribing stimulant medications to toddlers outside of published guidelines makes little sense, especially when you consider that such drugs carry risks for growth suppression, insomnia and hallucinations.

Parents should exhaust every option before choosing to go down the prescription stimulant road with their children.
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