What is our countries fastest growing drug problem? According to the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the answer is prescription drugs. Indeed, nearly one third of all Americans age 12 and over who have used drugs began with using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. Unfortunately, some doctors are contributing to this trend by prescribing attention deficit disorder medication to healthy patients. Although these medications might help improve memory and concentration, there are serious physical and psychological dangers to patients who take these medications.
Attention deficit disorder or ADD is the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric condition diagnosed in children. ADD is characterized as a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity or impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is normal. The most common form of treatment for ADD is medication. ADD medications are intended to improve memory and concentration in afflicted patients.
As with many medications, there are serious risks associated with taking ADD medication. These risks include cardiovascular disease, psychosis, and drug dependence. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America. Psychosis is a potentially debilitating psychiatric condition where the afflicted person loses contact with reality. Prescription drug dependence is the fastest growing drug problem in the US, affecting people from all walks of life.
Given the risk of serious adverse consequences associated with ADD medication, doctors must carefully balance the potential risks and benefits of the medication. Failing to do this endangers the lives of patients and exposes the doctor to the risk of a potential medical malpractice lawsuit for medication error. Nevertheless, some doctors continue to prescribe ADD medication to otherwise healthy patients for the purpose of improving memory and/or concentration. One of the biggest users of ADD medication for this purpose is college students. In fact, up to 11% of college students take ADD or other cognitive enhancement drugs hoping to improve their performance in school. Remarkably, this practice is purportedly legal if the drug is prescribed by a physician. Indeed, the American College of Neurology permits physicians to prescribe ADD medication to patients who do not have ADD.
Because of the risk of serious physical and psychological harm caused by ADD and other cognitive enhancement drugs, it is difficult to imagine why some physicians would prescribe the drug to a healthy patient. Further, new research indicates that ADD and other cognitive enhancement drugs do not improve mental performance in healthy patients. Thus, not only are these so called cognitive enhancement drugs potentially dangerous, they may provide no benefit to patients without ADD. For all these reasons, doctors should think long and hard before prescribing these medications to healthy patients in the hopes the drug might improve cognitive performance.
Medical News Today, Dangers Of Prescribing ADD Medication To Health Patients, December 18, 2012.
National Institute of Health, Psychosis, Updated December 7, 2012.
CDC, Be One In A Million This American Heart Month, Updated January 30, 2012.
White House, Prescription Drug Abuse, Viewed December 18, 2012.
Pscyh Central, What Is Attention Deficit Disorder, Viewed December 18, 2012.