Academic Doping

By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter
By: Jessa Goddard, Medical Reporter

Knoxville (WVLT) - We all want our children to do well in school. After all, a lot is on the line.

Just one grade letter could mean the difference as to what college they'll get into and how well prepared they will be for a future career.

We've heard a lot about performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports, lately. Now, it seems the pursuit of academic excellence has some parents taking similar measures.

Medicating America's children with ADHD drugs has been a controversial issue for more than a decade. Do they really need them, or are parents looking for a quick fix to calm their overly active children down?

Now, there's a growing number of parents requesting these drugs, not to calm their children down, but to bring their grades up.

"You do see that there is some advantage to a child who maybe is just about to get an 'A' and a parent may say, hey, let's get him on this medicine and move him up to an 'A'," says pediatrician Dr. Michael Green. "Get better grades, get better GPA's, more scholarships. So there's we're treading on very thin ice, I think."

It's called academic doping.

Parents putting their children on behavioral drugs, such as Ritalin, which stimulate their neurotransmitters and help with concentration and focus.

"A lot of kids that do not have this diagnosis that are put on these medications actually do a little better, so there is a little bit of benefit," says Dr. Green.

They are children who do not display the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis, such as distractibility, hyperactivity and a lack of focus.

Still, two-thirds of doctors report requests from parents to prescribe these drugs, with the goal of enhancing their child's academic performance.

"Too often times, someone comes in with a clear cut thought in their mind that it's time to go ahead and put the child on medicine, and sometimes it's not the case that they need to be. So I would say it's probably a 50-50," admits Dr. Green.

According to the national survey, last year, the average doctor reports having 11 parents request a behavioral drug with the goal of improving their child's academic performance.

And they admit prescribing the drug 9% of the time, even when they do not believe the child has ADHD.


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