A new position paper released by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) states that the practice of prescribing cognitive-enhancing drugs (such as ADHD medications) to healthy children and teens is misguided.
“Doctors caring for children and teens have a professional obligation to always protect the best interests of the child, to protect vulnerable populations, and prevent the misuse of medication,” said author William Graf, M.D., of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
“The practice of prescribing these drugs, called neuroenhancements, for healthy students is not justifiable.”
This rising trend of teens using “study drugs” before tests has made recent headlines in the United States. Even parents are going so far as requesting ADHD drugs for kids who don’t meet the criteria for the disorder. The AAN has spent the last several years evaluating all of the available research and ethical standards to develop this official position paper.
In the report, the researchers refer to dozens of ethical, legal, social and developmental reasons why prescribing mind-enhancing drugs — such as those for ADHD — for healthy people is viewed differently in children and adolescents compared to functional, independent adults with full decision-making abilities. The AAN has written a separate position statement that addresses the issue of neuroenhancements in adults.
The paper lists many factors against the practice of prescribing neuroenhancements for healthy children and teens. These include the following: the child’s best interest; the long-term health and safety of neuroenhancements, which has not been studied in children; kids and teens may lack complete decision-making capacities while their cognitive skills, emotional abilities and mature judgments are still developing; maintaining doctor-patient trust; and the risks of over-medication and dependency.
“The physician should talk to the child about the request, as it may reflect other medical, social or psychological motivations such as anxiety, depression or insomnia. There are alternatives to neuroenhancements available, including maintaining good sleep, nutrition, study habits and exercise regimens,” said Graf.
The statement is published in the online issue of Neurology.
Source: American Academy of Neurology