Medication Frees Children with ADHD

Photo: Illustration 

Children living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to feel that they benefit from medication to treat the condition and do not feel that the medication turns them into 'robots', according to a study.

In fact, they report feeling that medication helps them to control their behaviour and make better decisions. The study, which gives a voice to the children themselves, provides valuable insights into their experiences and the stigma they face.

The ADHD VOICES – Voices on Identity, Childhood, Ethics and Stimulants – study has worked with 151 families in the United Kingdom and United States (US) to examine ethical and societal issues surrounding ADHD, and in particular the use of treatments such as methylphenidate (Ritalin). The project has been led by biomedical ethicist Ilina Singh from King's College London.

Singh and colleagues interviewed children and their families about ADHD, behaviour, medication and identity across four contexts – home, school, doctor's office and peer group. The findings of their study are accompanied by a series of short films by award-winning animators The Brothers McLeod. "ADHD is a very emotive subject which inspires passionate debate. Everyone seems to have an opinion about the condition, what causes it, how to deal with children with ADHD, but the voices of these children are rarely listened to," explains Singh. "Who better to tell us what ADHD is like and how medication affects them than the children themselves?"

Singh points to the controversies surrounding providing medication to children with ADHD, which some people argue turns the children into 'robots'. She believes that in many cases and with a correct diagnosis, treating with stimulants is appropriate and beneficial, particularly if complemented by other interventions. The evidence from the children that she interviewed suggests that they see medication as improving their ability to make their own moral choices.

Glenn, aged 10 from the US, says: "If you are like driving in a car, and like, there is two different ways, and you usually always go this way…and then one day you want to go the other way, but… the ADHD acts as like a blocker, so you cannot… It [the medicine] opens the blocker so that you can go [the right] way. But you still have the choice of going the wrong way… It is harder [without medication], that is what is the truth. But it's not like [on medication] you are a robot..."; Source: Wellcome Trust

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