Articles of Interest:
An AD/HD Mother's Resolutions
Critics: Teachers shouldn't recommend drugs for students
By Lori Geary, Channel 2 Action News
Originally appeared online at http://www.accessatlanta.com/ (no longer available)
January 23, 2002 -- New laws aimed at preventing the overuse of behavioral drugs in kids are now on the books in several states. Could Georgia be next? We're talking about drugs such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall -- drugs to help with attention deficit disorder.
Critics of these medications say some education professionals are going too far, playing the role of doctor instead of teacher. "My daughter was diagnosed when she was four," said Carol Sadler. Six years later, Christina Sadler is still on behavioral medication and diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. "It scared us," said the mother. "We did not try medication for a year until she entered kindergarten and began having trouble." Her younger sister, Angela, also started having trouble. Carol Sadler says she had no choice but to medicate. "It was actually one of my friends who is a teacher that suspected she might have ADD," she said.
Some fear that certain teachers are crossing the line into psychiatry, so some states have passed laws that the first recommendation of behavioral drugs must come from a doctor and not a school official. "I think it's probably a good idea," said Dr. Michael Banov, a psychiatrist. "It happens enough where parents will tell their doctor the teacher thinks they have ADD and the physician will prescribe Ritalin, Concerta or Adderall just to see how the child does on it."
National studies show that the use of these drugs is on the rise. In 2000, nearly 20 million prescriptions were written -- a 35 percent increase since 1996. In Georgia, ritalin use has increased almost five times in the past decade.
"I believe the law was an overreaction to perceptions that people have about the role classroom teachers play in Ritalin," said Ralph Noble, president of the Georgia Association of Educators. "Teachers don't prescribe Ritalin," he said. But they can alert parents to abnormal behavior, recommending the child see a doctor.
"We don't want to tie their hands where they can't make recommendations," said Carol Sadler. Sadler, who works with a national organization called CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) says so-called ritalin laws may scare teachers. It makes them weary to even mention ADHD because they're afraid they're going to be sued.
"Our teachers are our first line of defense in recognition of these disorders," Sadler said. "We need to be able to work with our teachers to know when the medications aren't working, when they're effective, when they need to be adjusted. They're the ones who have to keep tabs on that for us."
Two years ago, Georgia lawmakers approved a committee to look into the effects of behavioral drugs on children. Two years later, no one has been appointed to that committee. The bill's co-sponsors say they've been promised by the house speaker they will meet this year and look into this very issue of whether Georgia should be the next state to adopt a law prohibiting teachers from even mentioning behavioral drugs.