TIME Parenting

Sorry, Audra McDonald — My Kid Needs His ADHD Meds

Kevin Mazur—2014

Isn't being awesome enough? Do you have to start prescribing as well?

Dear Ms. McDonald,

I love your work. Who doesn’t? Clearly nobody, since you just won a record-obliterating sixth Tony for your performance as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. Congratulations. That’s an incredible feat.

And don’t get me wrong, I love that you thanked your parents before anyone, the folks who got you your start in the theater. “I want to thank my mom and dad up in heaven,” you said in that seriously kick-ass red-and-white gown, “for disobeying the doctors’ orders and not medicating the hyperactive girl and finding out what she was into instead and pushing her into the theater.”

I have kids too. Should they happen to ever achieve a modicum of success, I’d like to think they might thank me one day. Not publicly from a podium or anything, but maybe just from their desk, or whatever place of work they happen to land upon. Here’s the thing, though: I really want them to have jobs. Unlike your family, of whom you once joked that if you were “tone-deaf they would have kicked me out,” I’m not musical. Unlike you, my kids do not have five aunts in a professional gospel-singing group. (My brothers did have a band. If memory serves, my mother called them the Unlistenables.)

But here’s the thing: one of my kids doesn’t learn very well without the meds. We’ve tried the theater, sports, music, wearing him out, getting him more sleep, meditation, diet, being super-disciplinarian, being not too disciplinarian, art, bribery and shouting. We even tried chewing gum for a while. Oh, man, that stuff is hard to remove. We tried a lot of techniques, some of them more seriously than others, because we are human and have jobs and other children. But the thing that worked best, that enabled him to learn to read and stopped him from getting into trouble at school, was medicine.

Since completing school and getting a job are pretty tightly linked, our options are limited. Since employment and having a family, or a home or a healthy mental attitude, have also been linked, the parent of a child who has trouble learning can begin to get very anxious. Nobody, as I’ve said before, is thrilled to medicate their child. It’s not what anybody considers a huge parental triumph. We have no trophy cabinet for the expired bottles of methylphenidate. But if you don’t have a child whose talents are as prodigious and obvious as yours, it can be tough to figure out what’s best for them. So you’re left with trying to avoid what’s worst; and clearly not being able to learn is pretty high on that list.

I’m sure that you were not personally judging me and other concerned parents when you thanked your parents for not putting you on Ritalin. I’m sure you weren’t trying to prescribe from the podium. And obviously, you have thrived, against some serious odds. But damn it, you’re not making it any easier to live with our hard decisions. There’s anxiety and then there’s Audra-induced anxiety, which is more dramatic and accomplished than the regular sort. I’m equally sure your parents also drove you to rehearsal a lot, or ran lines with you, or calmed you down if you had stage fright, or told you not to chew your nails. You couldn’t have mentioned that instead?

The chances of anybody winning six Tonys are extremely slender (again, bravo). If by giving my child medication, I have reduced his chances of getting that gong even further, so be it. He may not be Audra-level awesome, but he’s going to get through school. I’m O.K. with that.

TIME

This Graphic of Counterfeit, Poison-Laced Pills Is Horrifying

CHINA-HEALTH-INTERNET-PHARMA
This picture taken on March 14 shows health workers preparing to destroy fake medicines seized in Beijing in recent months. STR—AFP/Getty Images

Rat poison, wall paint, antifreeze, paint thinner and a few other ingredients that have slipped into the $75 billion a year market for counterfeit pills

Today the world celebrates Anti-Counterfeiting Day, and by world, we mean a little-known coalition of regulators and lawyers celebrating their quiet battle against counterfeit drug makers.

Here’s a reason for the non-observant to join the festivities: Some $75 billion worth of counterfeit drugs hit the global market each year. These pills often have brand names etched on the outside and chemical imbalances on the inside that are at best, ineffective, and at worst, toxic.

Just how toxic? The Partnership for Safe Medicines, a not-for-profit association of pharmaceutical organizations, has a graphic just in time for the holidays. It shows the full sweep of contaminants that heath officials have discovered in fake pills over the years.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 12.24.34 PM
Source: Partnership for Safe Medicines

Uranium, of course, is a worst case scenario. Actual contamination rates are hard to measure in an industry that dodges scrutiny for a living. A rough survey by the World Health Organization found that 73% of counterfeit medications contained either the wrong ingredient, the wrong dosage, or no active ingredient, while 8% were laced with impurities and contaminants. Only 15% contained the right dose and the right ingredient. Some sobering figures to contemplate on World Anti—Counterfeit Day, or any day an unaccredited website offers pills at rock-bottom prices.

MORE: The Hidden War: Corporations Fight Against Counterfeiting

TIME

Many Ivy League Kids Don’t Think Taking ADHD Drugs is Cheating

Peter Cade--Getty Images

Many students use ADHD drugs for academic performance, and they don't think it's cheating

About one in five students at an Ivy League college said they’ve used a prescription ADHD drug while studying, and a third of the college students did not think that qualified as cheating, according to new research.

ADHD medications, like adderall or ritalin, are commonly misused among people without a diagnosis as a way to perform and concentrate better. A 2011 paper from the College Board reported that though available numbers are small, students do obtain and use ADHD drugs and learning disorder diagnoses to gain an academic advantage, the New York Times reports. Of course, there are people with legitimate disorders, but the new study focused on students without ADHD.

The researchers, who will present their findings at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting this weekend, interviewed 616 students at a “highly selective college” (the researchers did not say which), and found that 18% used the drugs for academic reasons, and 24% had done so eight or more times. College juniors were the most likely to abuse the medication, and students who played sports or were involved in Greek life were also the most common abusers. Since the researchers excluded anyone with an ADHD diagnosis, all the students were therefore using the drugs illegally. The researchers did not ask about the source of the medications, but told TIME in an email that they are almost always from other students.

When asked whether this type of behavior classified as cheating, a third of the students said it did not, 41% said it was cheating, and 25% said they were not sure. People who used ADHD meds were also more likely to think it was a common phenomenon on campus.

More and more people are being diagnosed with ADHD, including adults. The number of adults taking ADHD drugs rose by over 50% between 2008 and 2012, according to a report. One of the hard parts about screening for the disorder is that doctors need to determine who has a legitimate disorder and who is looking for a performance fix. The researchers say their study raises those serious questions for providers: “To the extent that some high school and college students have reported feigning ADHD symptoms to obtain stimulant medication, should physicians become more cautious or conservative when newly diagnosing ADHD in teens?” study author Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, said in a statement.

The findings will be presented Saturday, May 3, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver.

 

TIME medication

Study: Powerful Painkillers Increasingly Prescribed In ERs

172168421
Getty Images

Prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, or opiates, in emergency departments rose 49 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to a new study. The finding raises concerns over the risks of addiction and misuse

Emergency departments in America are increasingly prescribing strong painkilling drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin amid rising use of the medications nationally.

Prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, or opiates, in emergency departments rose 49 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to a study published in this month’s issue of Academic Emergency Medicine.

Doctors have increasingly prescribed the potent painkillers in part because of a movement to improve pain management, according to CBS. But doctors are also increasingly incentivized to please patients—some hospitals offer pay incentives linked to patient satisfaction–and may prescribe the medication to patients who ask for it.

The rising use of narcotic painkillers has prompted concerns over the risks of addiction and misuse. Roughly 15,000 Americans die annually from overdosing, and some 12 million people abuse the medication, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[CBS News]

TIME Disease

Elders’ Medications Often Cancel Each Other Out

In some instances can worse another disease

About 75% of older Americans suffer from multiple chronic diseases like heart disease and dementia, but 1 in 5 of them are taking a combination of drugs that interfering with or worsen one of their ailments.

New research published in the journal PLOS ONE looked at 5,815 community-living adults between 2007 and 2009, and found that 22.6% of older people are taking a medication that can make a coexisting illness worse. “Many physicians are aware of these concerns but there isn’t much information available on what to do about it,” study author David Lee, an assistant professor in the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy said in a statement.

Some chronic diseases known to have competing therapies include diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and osteoarthritis. The scientists say more research is needed to determine whether illnesses may need to be treated one at a time in some instances.

“More than 9 million older adults in the U.S. are being prescribed medications that may be causing them more harm than benefit,” said study co-author Jonathan Lorgunpai, a medical student at the Yale School of Medicine in a statement. “Not only is this potentially harmful for individual patients, it is also very wasteful for our health care system.”

TIME ADHD

Number of Adults Using ADHD Drugs Reaches New High

The number of adults using the pills rose by more 50 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to a new report, leading to concerns that the trend of over-diagnosing in children is now occurring in adults

The number of adults taking ADHD drugs rose by more 50% between 2008 and 2012, according to a new report from pharmacy management organization Express Scripts.

The report shows that adults taking medications like Adderall, Concerta, and Strattera rose from an estimated 1.7 million in 2008 to 2.6 million in 2012. For young adults, the increase in ADHD-related drug use was even greater, especially among women ages 26 to 34, who experienced an 85% increase in use. Some medical experts believe that ADHD is over-diagnosed in kids, and that trend is now bleeding over to adults.

The authors of the report note that the increased rate of ADHD medication among adult women could be due to the fact that females tend not to display the disruptive behavior symptoms of disorder, but are more inattentive and therefore may be overlooked when they are kids. It could also be attributed to inappropriate use of the drugs, for example, as an appetite suppressants.

The new findings come from an analysis of about 15 million privately insured people under age 65 and a closer look at pharmacy claims of 400,000 people who filled a minimum of one prescription for ADHD treatment during the study period.

You can read the full report here.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser