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Should Stimulants Be Prescribed to Boost Grades?


ADHD is a widespread problem that causes considerable problems with academic progress in children. In this work, I analyze the opinion presented in a newspaper article and develop an argument that considers the disadvantages of the pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD, such as subjectivity of diagnosis, numerous side effects, uncertainty about long-term effects, and high price, in contradiction to the feebleness of its advantage. I also consider the far-reaching implications of this issue for psychology.

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Summary and Reaction to the News Article

The article published in The New York Times (Schwarz, 2012) is devoted to the problem of prescribing drugs for the children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. As the author puts it, children have to take pills in order to boost grades. The article sheds light on the system, in which pediatricians have no choice but to prescribe drugs to such kids. The author cites the opinions of a child psychiatrist, a child physician, and families of kids with ADHD regarding this issue, as well as he relies on the prescriptions of the official healthcare institutions. As the author considers, pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD is a short-term solution, which has horrible consequences in the long run.

To my opinion, the article has touched a serious problem that exists in the American society. I do believe that it would shock any reader as well as it shocked myself. It reveals one aspect of the multifaceted, long-term trend that exists in our country which makes adults modify the kid rather than alter the environment; it is especially true for the educational system, and it does great harm to the psychic of the American children. It is the task of the psychologists and other clinicians to change this trend.

The Disadvantages of Prescribing Drugs for ADHD in Children

As it is clear from the article, the advantages of the pharmaceutical treatment for ADHD in children do not overweigh its disadvantages. While I recognize that the article is built on a right premise, I believe it is necessary to perform a closer consideration of the subject and find out whether the risks and negative effects of ADHD drugs are not worth the academic improvement that a child receives.

First of all, no reliable proof exist that the regular, long-term intake of ADHD drugs lead to academic improvements in the majority of the children, who take these drugs. A study conducted by J.M. Langberg and S.P. Becker (2012) proves that the link between the drugs and academic improvement is not clear; the evidence suggests only small and insignificant improvement in some kids. Therefore, the only advantage of these drugs is questionable. These findings are supported by my personal experience. A close friend of mine is diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed drugs, which do no help to her. However, her parents convince her to continue taking the pills and do not believe that her low grades are caused by ADHD. One can only guess how many American children face the same pressure.

In addition, the diagnosis of ADHD in children is a complicated and subjective process. A great number of mental problems have the same visible effect as does ADHD, and it is really easy to make a mistake (Pontifex, Fine, Da Cruz, Parks, & Smith, 2014, p. 94). Surely enough, ADHD drugs will not help a misdiagnosed child to improve their grades.

As it was already mentioned, the drugs are a short-term solution. In fact, the long-term consequences of such medications are not clearly understood by the academic community. Even those scholars, who believe in the academic improvement following the intake of drugs, acknowledge that the effect is short-term (Langberg & Becker, 2012).

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Next, pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD is financially difficult for parents, whose expenses are not covered completely with insurance. The drugs are to be taken regularly and sometimes in great amount, which leads to considerable expenses that not every parent can take.

Aside from that, ADHD medications have a variety of dangerous and frequently happening side effects such as problems with weight, appetite, sleep, and mood.

In addition to the facts mentioned above, it is necessary to note that drugs is not the only way to treat ADHD, even though it is much simpler for clinicians (and in most cases they have little choice) to prescribe a drug. Some researchers emphasize the possibility of using physical activity as a way to treat ADHD in children. Firstly, physical activity does not have as many side effects as drugs. Secondly, making a child physically active is less likely to be a financial burden for their parents. Finally, several cease studies prove that physical therapy is an effective weapon against ADHD, and, moreover, it gives long-term effect, unlike drugs (Pontifex et al., 2014).

Implications for Psychology

To my strong conviction, the continuation of this debate has significant implications for psychology, particularly child psychology. On a broader scale, the argument over this issue can encourage clinicians, parents, and educators promote the belief that, rather than adjust a child to the stressful school environment, it is necessary to make the environment convenient for the children with different cognitive and attentional capabilities.


Despite being a popular solution to the problem, ADHD has a questionable advantage and numerous disadvantages. Physical therapy is a healthy and safe alternative. The continuation of the discussion over the ADHD medication may become the ground for rethinking of the approach to child psychology regarding education.


Langberg, J.M., & Becker, S.P. (2012). Does long-term medication use improve the academic outcomes of youth with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder? Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 15(3), 215-233. Web.

Pontifex, M.B., Fine, J.G., Da Cruz, K., Parks, A.C., & Smith, A.L. (2014). The role of physical activity in reducing barriers to learning in children with developmental disorders. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 79(4), 93-118. Web.

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Schwarz, Alan. (2012). Attention disorder or not, pills to help in school. The New York Times. Web.

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