Over the last ten to fifteen years, diagnosis rates for disorders such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been skyrocketing. Diagnosis of ADHD has increased by twenty two percent in the last seven years. Since 2000, the occurrence of autism has increased from one in one hundred and fifty children to one in eighty-eight children (). Whatever the reason for this substantial increase in the rate of diagnosis, this result has been that more children than ever before are being given prescription medication.
Regarding ADHD, preschool children as young as two to four years of age are being prescribed anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs, sometimes simultaneously. Although there have been studies on the short and long term effects of individual medications as well as multiple prescriptions in children diagnosed with ADHD, the scope of the impact is still unknown (www.pbs.org). Until conclusive reports can rule out dramatic or life-altering effects, the prescription of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics in preschool age children is unwise.
A recent study has shown that fifty-six percent of children with autism are taking psychotropic medication. Children with autism can have significant communication and sensory issues, which can make day to day life almost unmanageable. The problem is that psychotropic medication does nothing to treat the core issues of autism, but rather it reduces the stress and anxiety that can come as a result of the disorder by affecting the mind of the patient. While this can be extremely helpful for caregivers and teachers (which is a legitimate concern since some children with autism have violent tendencies), the side effects of these drugs can cause health concerns, such as weight gain. Additionally, the psychotropic medications can make it more difficult for the students to learn, making the therapies which do impact the core deficits of autism less effective (Arky).
There are alternatives to prescription drugs to combat the symptoms of both ADHD and autism. Specific dietary changes have been proven effective for children diagnosed with each of these disorders. For ADHD, the Feingold diet (conceived by Dr. Feingold) is a respected and well-documented option. The Feingold diet proposes that patients eliminate synthetic preservatives, flavors, and artificial sweeteners (Vanta). For autism, the elimination of all non-organic additives, sweeteners, MSG, and hydrogenated fats has shown effectiveness. Researchers of both disorders have recommended a diet free of casein and gluten, arguing that the protein found in milk and wheat can cause an increase in hyperactivity on those diagnosed with ADD or autism ().
Prescription medication is not inherently bad. Some children absolutely require it to have a typical day to day life. However, too many medications are being administered to children at an extremely young age. The problem with this is that very young children can be misdiagnosed, making the medications unnecessary and potentially dangerous. Many prescription medications can cause health issues, and can even inhibit therapy. It is essential that doctors encourage patients to try less dangerous options, such as eliminating artificial additives and adopting an organic diet. This could significantly reduce the need for medication in many children, and perhaps eliminate it entirely in others.
Arky, Beth. "Advice & Support." Autism and Medication. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2012.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2012.
PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2012.
"Treating Autism UK Biomedical Treatments for Autism Aspergers ASD." Treating Autism UK Biomedical Treatments for Autism Aspergers ASD. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2012.
Vanta, Brindusta. "Natural Diets for Kids With ADHD." LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2012.