I read an article recently on Esquire.com, called The Drugging of the American Boy, and mumbled some not-so-nice words under my breath the whole time. The slant of the article is that giving a child stimulant medication, a medication typically prescribed to individuals with ADHD, is just the easy way out of teaching boys how to confirm and behave. [more…] The author proposes that the rising diagnosis and treatment of ADHD is “drugging American boys.”

As if, Mr. D’Agostino!

Yes, the number of ADHD diagnoses has skyrocketed in recent years (according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the latest statistic is that 13.5% of boys ages 3-17 will receive an ADHD diagnosis in the U.S.). Yes, children are often misdiagnosed with ADHD. Yes, it would be fantastic if no child had to take stimulant medication. But, making the decision to give your child ADHD medication is anything but easy. Most parents agonize over the decision for weeks, months, and even years. Hell, my son has been on stimulants for five years, and I still agonize about his medication. That’s my child! I would walk through an inferno and back to take away his clinical-grade inattention, hyperactivity, social aloofness, written expression disorder, and being misunderstood by almost every teacher and administrator who’s path he crosses. But I can’t, because he has a neurological condition, a physiological difference, that causes these weaknesses.

Parents worry about the common side effects of ADHD medications, like loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and potential stunting of growth. We worry every single day about it. However, there’s a large flip-side in addition to that for us to worry ourselves sick over as well — a life with ADHD and no treatment. That life is statistically likely to include zero confidence and self-esteem, depression and anxiety, little education if even a high school diploma, alcohol and/or drug abuse, broken relationships, a criminal record, and more. Studies show that treating ADHD early gives an individual much better access to a successful life. Studies also show that giving medication to address ADHD reduces the likelihood that the individual will turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. “Do I want my child to be sad, possibly an addict, or part of the prison population, or do I want to give my child a medication that can help him slow down and focus enough to learn skills and strategies he needs to succeed and live a life of joy?” Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Yes, you quoted many great physicians in your article, and used their quotes that best suited your agenda. I’m no doctor, but I live with a child with ADHD every single day. My heart breaks when he’s constantly in trouble at school, when kids bully him relentlessly, when he can’t achieve what his peers do, when he tells me he is “stupid,” despite a high IQ in the 130s. I see my boy struggle every single day, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and watch that happen, because some people are uncomfortable with the number of children being diagnosed with and treated for ADHD.

While you crafted your stance that too many boys are being “drugged” from the solitude of your desk, I helped my son learn to self-soothe when frustrated; I taught him that his friend is still his friend even though he didn’t want to play today; I emailed his teachers about his social struggles, I trudged through homework by his side, I reminded him that he is very smart and a good person… I’m doing the work, while you’re stirring the pot from the quiet solitude of your laptop.

How about reporters stop trying to get famous from writing sensational pieces on the “drugging of children” and start helping our communities raise strong, happy, and independent men (and women) who succeed, despite having ADHD?

I pulled this quote from your piece, as the one shred of fact and support you lent in the many pages you used mostly to condemn:

“Managing ADHD, for most people who receive the diagnosis, includes taking medication. If the diagnosis is real, a prescription can turn around a child’s life in an instant, improving his ability to concentrate and jacking up his self-esteem. Denying a child who needs the medicine is as cruel as forcing it on a kid who doesn’t.”

Next time use that as a story starter, and leave the judgement in the trash, where it belongs.

Author: Penny Williams

Penny Williams guides and mentors parents raising kids with ADHD and/or autism. She’s the parent of a son with ADHD and autism, and the author of three award-winning books on parenting kids with ADHD: Boy Without Instructions, What to Expect When Parenting Children with ADHD, and The Insider’s Guide to ADHD Penny is the current editor of ParentingADHDandAutism.com, Founder and Instructor for The Parenting ADHD & Autism Academy, and a frequent contributor on parenting and children with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications.