Quite a few of our nation’s youth are prescribed attention-aiding drugs such as Ritalin and Focalin — roughly three million of them, to be more specific. At first glance, these numbers might seem not all that shocking, but they warrant further inquiry.
It may be the case that each of those three million young people truly warrant a prescription to help them focus, but I sincerely doubt it. Rather, I would wager that close analysis of the situation reveals that America is over-prescribing these medications at an alarming rate.
Do the youth of our country truly require this heavy a load of prescription drugs?
Over the past three decades, there has been a twenty-fold increase in the consumption of attention-aiding drugs in America, and the vast majority of these prescriptions are written for young adolescents.
The drugs have become popular based on their ability to increase productivity and concentration, but new studies have shown that these results may not be what they seem.
Attention-aiding drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall and Focalin have long been thought to increase a person’s ability to concentrate, but we now know that this is not true in the longterm. The drugs have gained immense popularity among college students because of their usefulness for cramming for exams, but this may actually be all that they are good for.
According to The New York Times, it has been shown that when these drugs are administered to a given party over a long period of time, they do very little to actually increase the person’s capacity to retain information or stay task-oriented. It has also now been proven that these drugs do nothing to reduce troublesome behavioral patterns in youth — as they were once thought to.
As if the argument forming against these drugs wasn’t convincing enough, it has been shown that the body’s tolerance to these substances builds rather quickly, causing a patient to either continually up their dosage or lose the desired effect after only several months of repeated use.
Given that this information exists as public record, one wonders why our country continues to pump the youth full of these substances with reckless abandon. The answer exists in a combination of factors that should come as no surprise. All children struggle with focusing and staying task-oriented at some point, regardless of their individual capacity to learn.
More often than not, these moments of inability are not the result of some sort of organic, inborn disorder, but rather simple boredom at the tasks that they are presented with. Depression, anxiety, boredom, anger and confusion are all as likely to be a cause of this phenomenon as any sort of attention deficit disorder.
We as a nation need to realize that writing off our youth by sending them out the door with a prescription for low-grade speed is not the answer to our problem. More benefit could certainly come from simply observing each of these children as individual learners and catering to their needs accordingly.
It’s time for us to wake up and stop attempting to solve our problems through prescription medication. All we’re doing is putting off finding a real solution.