Being a parent is probably the most rewarding experience. It can also be frustrating, demanding, and tiring. It is filled with moments that take your breath away and moments that make you hold your breath and count to ten…or twenty. When you have a child with a special need, those challenges and rewards can often be greater.
The diagnosing process is long, and often stressful, for both parent and child. My child was diagnosed with a few different problems, before finally getting a diagnosis of ADHD. I didn’t want to believe it. Perhaps my child was just energetic, and what is wrong with that? However, after many meetings and many tear filled homework sessions, we decided to go on medication. The first and only medication that the doctor offered was Ritalin, a controlled substance. With the following side effects:
- fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeats;
- feeling like you might pass out;
- fever, sore throat, and headache with a severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash;
- aggression, restlessness, hallucinations, unusual behavior, or motor tics (muscle twitches);
- easy bruising, purple spots on your skin; or
- dangerously high blood pressure (severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath, uneven heartbeats, seizure).
It also has a chance of becoming habit forming and/or leading to substance abuse in the future. This is what the doctor, offered my than six year old child. I am sorry to say we put my son on immediately. What a difference! When the rest of the kids were clowning around in class, mine was sitting. When the rest of the kids ran off to the playground eager to let off some energy, mine was on the swings…alone. His grades improved, of course, his school reports for behavior in class improved and his teachers were so happy. He never turned into a zombie. He still maintained his personality, just on a quieter scale. However, about an hour to two hours after he got home, a monster would take his place. My once sweet, wonderful, funny child would turn into an angry, agitated, monster with erratic behavior. A call to the doctor resulted in the following answer. “That is just him coming down from the medication.” My son…coming down…from a medication. What have I done?
Summer finally came and the medication was over. My happy, funny, sweet boy was back. Yes, he had his moments. Some times worse than others of course, but for the most part, my little boy was back. At his before school checkup, I told the doctor no more Ritalin. I wanted a non-stimulant medication. “Well”, his doctor said. “Why don’t we try upping his dosage? Say three times a day instead of two, this way he won’t ‘come down’ right after school.” That wasn’t the answer for me. Then he said, “Okay well let’s try a longer lasting medication, one that will time release throughout the day as opposed to having ups and downs.” Hmm…no thanks…still want to try a non-stimulant. Finally, he told me the real reason they were hesitant to put kids on non-stimulant medication is because the insurance companies, often don’t cover it unless you have tried two separate stimulant drugs. Now I was shocked. I placed a phone call to my insurance company, only to find that they do cover it. One is a tier 3 drug – meaning it costs more. I would have to pay a deductible, of $100 and then pay the $95 for the prescription. It would then be $95 a month (as opposed to the $15 I was paying for the Ritalin). The other drug was a tier 2 and again met with the same deductible and higher monthly cost. This is where I saw a huge problem in the world of ADHD and for all I know, all diseases and disorders in general.
So this is where my rant ends…with questions.
Why in the world would doctors not offer non-stimulant medications first to children? I am talking about elementary school children. Why? Why are they pushing methylphenidate on children? A drug that is habit forming and could cause long term drug abuse? Why?
Why are non-stimulant medications not easier to get? Why are they more costly?
Why are natural products like Synaptol not more widely used and again, covered by insurance? Why?
I don’t understand why, in a country that is so concerned about healthy living, we have such a huge problem like this. We eat right, we exercise, we don’t smoke, and yet we are being handed drugs that hinder more then they help and not offered or are unable to afford a better alternative. This needs to stop. How many children like mine, are on unnecessary medication? How many parents face this problem, to medicate or not? I would like for the pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, and the FDA to fix this enormous problem. It probably isn’t just ADHD medication. It is probably a lot of problems. For example, I have a family member who has MS. This person, instead of being given some of the more advanced options, is being handed pain killers like they were candy. Why not find better ways to treat as opposed to masking. I find that with all the emphasis we have on natural living, organic living, clean living, to prescribe medications just to get rid of the patient (which I feel is what is happening) is disgusting and unjust.
I am concerned for my child. I want the very best for him. I want him to exceed at school and have fun. I will not medicate him with medication that will harm in the future. Something has to be done about this. Somehow there needs be better policies in place. Whether that is better prescription coverage for insurance, better education for doctors, or more research on alternative treatments. Ritalin and Adderall shouldn’t be the only option.
- Getting High for an A: Stimulants as Studying Aids (whatmesober.com)