THREE million children in this country take drugs for problems in focusing.
But are these drugs really helping children? Should we really keep expanding the number of prescriptions filled? In 30 years there http://uht.me/essay-help/how-to-write-survey-results.php been a twentyfold increase in the consumption of drugs for attention-deficit disorder. As a psychologist who has been studying the development of troubled children for more than 40 years, I believe we should be asking why we rely so heavily on these drugs.
Attention-deficit drugs increase concentration in the short term, which is why they work so well for college students cramming for exams.
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But when given to children over long periods of time, they neither improve school achievement nor reduce behavior problems. The drugs can also have serious side effects, including stunting growth. Sadly, few physicians and parents seem to be aware of what we have been learning about the lack of effectiveness of these drugs.
What gets click are short-term results and studies on brain differences among children.
Indeed, there are a number of incontrovertible facts that seem at first glance to support medication. It is because of this partial foundation in reality that the problem with the current approach to treating children has been so difficult to see. Back in the s I, like most psychologists, believed that children with difficulty concentrating were suffering from a brain problem of genetic or otherwise inborn origin. Just as Type I diabetics need insulin to Long Way Gone Essay problems with their inborn biochemistry, these children were believed to require attention-deficit drugs to correct theirs.
It turns out, however, that there is Long Way Gone Essay to no evidence to support this theory. I had conducted one of these studies myself. Teachers and parents also reported improved behavior in almost every short-term study. Ritalin and Adderall, a combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, are stimulants. So why do they appear to calm children down? Some experts argued that because the brains of children with attention problems were different, the drugs had a mysterious paradoxical effect on them.
However, there really was no paradox.
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Versions of these drugs had been given to World War II radar operators to help them stay awake and focus on boring, repetitive tasks. And when we reviewed the literature on attention-deficit drugs again in we here that all children, whether they had attention problems or not, responded to please click for source drugs the same way.
Moreover, while the drugs helped children settle down in class, they actually increased activity in the playground. Stimulants generally have the same effects for all children and adults. And just as in the many dieters who have used and abandoned similar drugs to lose weight, the effects of stimulants on children with attention problems fade after prolonged use.
Some experts have argued that children with A. But in fact, the loss of appetite and sleeplessness in children first prescribed attention-deficit drugs do fade, and, as we now know, so do the effects on behavior. They apparently develop a tolerance to the drug, and thus its efficacy disappears.
Many parents who take their children off the drugs find that behavior worsens, which most likely confirms their belief that the drugs work. Adults may have similar reactions if they suddenly cut back on coffee, or stop smoking.
TO date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve. Until recently, most studies of these drugs had not been properly randomized, and some of them had other methodological flaws. But infindings were published from a well-controlled study that had been going on for more than a decade, and the results were very clear.
The study randomly assigned almost children with attention problems Long Way Gone Essay four treatment conditions. Some received medication alone, some cognitive-behavior therapy alone, some medication plus therapy, and some were Long Way Gone Essay a community-care control group that received no systematic treatment. At first this study suggested that medication, or medication plus therapy, produced the best results. However, after three years, these effects had faded, and by eight years there was no evidence that medication produced any academic or behavioral benefits.
Indeed, all of the treatment successes faded over time, although the study is continuing. Clearly, these children need a broader base of Long Way Gone Essay than was offered in this medication study, support that begins earlier and lasts longer.
While the technological sophistication of these studies may impress parents and nonprofessionals, they can be misleading. Of course the brains of children with behavior problems will show anomalies on brain scans. It could not be otherwise. Behavior and the brain are intertwined. Depression also waxes and wanes in many people, and as it does so, parallel Long Way Gone Essay in brain functioning occur, regardless of medication.
Many of the brain studies of children with A. If these children are not paying attention because of lack of motivation or an underdeveloped capacity to regulate their behavior, their brain scans are certain to be anomalous.
View all New York Times newsletters. However brain functioning is measured, these studies tell us nothing about whether the observed anomalies were present at birth or whether they resulted from trauma, chronic stress or other early-childhood experiences.
One of the most profound findings in behavioral neuroscience in recent years has been the clear evidence that the developing brain is shaped by experience. It is certainly true that large numbers of children have problems with attention, self-regulation and behavior.
But are Long Way Gone Essay problems because of some aspect present at birth? Or are they caused by experiences in early childhood? These questions can be answered only by studying children and their surroundings from before birth through childhood and adolescence, as my colleagues at the University of Minnesota and I have been doing for decades.
Sincewe have followed children who were born into poverty and were therefore more vulnerable to behavior problems. We enrolled their mothers during pregnancy, and over the course of their lives, we studied their relationships with their caregivers, teachers and peers. We followed their progress through school and their experiences in early adulthood.
At regular intervals we measured their health, behavior, performance on intelligence tests and other characteristics. By late adolescence, 50 percent of our sample qualified for some psychiatric diagnosis. Almost half displayed behavior problems at school on at least one occasion, and 24 percent dropped out by 12th grade; 14 percent met criteria for A. Other large-scale epidemiological studies confirm such trends in the general population of disadvantaged children.
Here all children, including all socioeconomic groups, the incidence of A. What we found was that the environment of the child predicted development of A.
In stark contrast, measures of neurological anomalies at birth, I. Plenty of affluent children are also diagnosed with A. Behavior problems in children have many possible sources. Among them are family stresses like domestic violence, lack of social support from friends or relatives, chaotic living situations, including frequent moves, and, especially, patterns of parental intrusiveness that involve stimulation for which the baby is not prepared. For example, a 6-month-old baby is playing, and the parent picks it up quickly from behind and plunges it in the bath.
Or a 3-year-old is becoming frustrated in solving a problem, and a parent taunts or ridicules. Putting children on drugs does nothing to change the conditions that derail their development in the first place. Yet those conditions are receiving scant attention. Policy makers are so convinced that children with attention deficits have an organic disease that they have all but called off the search for a comprehensive understanding of the condition. The National Institute of Mental Health finances research aimed largely at physiological and brain components of A.
While there is some research on other treatment approaches, very little is studied regarding the role of experience. Scientists, aware of this orientation, tend to submit only grants aimed at elucidating the biochemistry. Thus, only one question is asked: The answer is always yes. Overlooked is the very real possibility that both the brain anomalies and the A.
Our present course poses numerous risks. First, there will never be a single solution for visit web page children with learning and behavior problems. While some smaller number may benefit from Long Way Gone Essay drug treatment, large-scale, long-term treatment for millions of children is not the answer.
Drugs get everyone — politicians, scientists, teachers and read more — off the hook.
Everyone except the children, that is. If drugs, which studies show work for four to eight weeks, are not the answer, what is? Many of these children have anxiety or Long Way Gone Essay others are showing family stresses. We need to treat them as individuals. As for shortages, they will continue to wax and wane. Because these drugs are habit forming, Congress decides how much can be produced. By the end of this year, there will in all likelihood be another shortage, as we continue to rely on drugs that are not doing what so many well-meaning parents, therapists and teachers believe they are doing.
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Verbal Essay - "A Long Way Gone" by Ishmael Beah
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