The news about both children and athletes is focusing on an increase in the use of medications being prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  For children, one noted child and adult psychiatrist, Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, believes the medication works best with an added dose of love.  What does it mean for National Football League (NFL) players making news this week? For athletes – it will mean following rules that define use rather than pill popping without a prescription.

Patience and medication, benefits and concern

For the parents and siblings of a constantly buzzing child one needs a healthy dose of humor and patience as I learned after talking with Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Katherine Ellison about her book “Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention.”

According to recent medical reports, parents should be mindful that medication is important.  Medical updates noted in Brown University’s Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology August 2012 issue pointed out that “Early stimulant use for ADHD lowers risk of academic decline.” However, a November 2012 report of a Swedish study found an increase in ADHD prescriptions written, but also “higher discontinuation rates.”  

Two commonly prescribed medications are Adderall and Ritilin.

At the NFL

The New York Times reported on Dec. 1, 2012,

According to N.F.L. figures, 21 suspensions were announced this calendar year because of failed tests for performance-enhancing drugs, including amphetamines like Adderall. Drug of Focus Is at Center of Suspensions

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell

In talks with Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, noted internationally as an ADHD specialist, he said: “Love is our most powerful and under-prescribed medication. It’s free and infinite in supply, and we most definitely ought to prescribe it more often.”

Nonetheless, in speaking about Ritalin, he said: “We may go wrong in how we use it, when we over-prescribe it, or when we use it as a substitute for love, guidance, and the human connection. As long as we use it properly, it remains one of our most proven and valuable of all medications.”

Dr. Hallowell has a unique perspective on ADHD and goes to great lengths to present medical facts to children and families while creating a uniquely understandable and positive way of describing ADHD.

He said: “I tell children that they are lucky to have a race car for a brain, a Ferrari engine. I tell them that they have the potential to grow into champions by working to achieve greatness in their lives. I explain that billionaires, CEO’s, Pulitzer Prize winners and professional athletes with ADHD, whom I’ve treated over the years, have succeeded.

“But I also tell them that they face one problem — their race car brain has bicycle brakes. And lucky for them — I am a brake specialist. One of the many tools I can use to strengthen brakes is medication. But medication is only a start; we will have to do much more. However, they should see medication as a companion in that effort.”

Dr. Hallowell’s goal is to see parents and children leave his office feeling hopeful. Instead of feeling as if they have a problem, he wants children to leave his office feeling like “champions in the making.” Dr Hallowell

Katherine Ellison, her book, “Buzz”

After talking with Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Katherine Ellison about her highly praised “Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention,” it became apparent — having a child with ADHD can be like living with a hummingbird — an energetic, continually moving target. Buzz - Katherine Ellison

Katherine Ellison, in earlier interviews, said she found that the best way she learned to adjust to her

particular family dynamic was to think of it as a challenge to evolve; that is, become more patient and forgiving, to take things less personally, and to focus on the positive.

A former foreign correspondent — taken hostage by Mexican peasants, arrested by Cuban police, tear-gassed in Panama, and chased by killer bees — she came to believe that the challenge of arriving at a reasonably normal family life was one of her toughest assignments.

Prescription increase

The Food and Drug Administration has found a 46 percent increase in ADHD medication use between 2002 and 2010. While evidence points out the benefits, studies have shown that when it comes to medical treatment, parents are ambivalent.

Copyright 2012 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved


The Brown University Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology Update. Volume 14, No. 11, November 2012

Love is important ‘medication’ for ADHD on Page D2 of Monday, November 05, 2012 issue of The Providence Journal


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