The American Academy of Neurology has officially weighed in against prescribing “smart drugs” to improve attention and cognition in healthy children.
Pediatric neurologists at the Yale School of Medicine wrote in a position statement in the journal Neurology this month that off-label prescriptions, particularly of stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin, have risen in parallel with increasing diagnoses of attention deficit disorders.
The researchers found a nearly 22 percent increase in ADHD diagnoses in the past 20 years, including a 53 percent increase among Hispanic children.
Those increases raise troubling ethical and scientific problems, the researchers argue. The long-term health and safety of the drugs, known technically as nootropics, have not been thoroughly studied in children and adolescents, and the drugs may have very different effects on children, whose cognitive abilities are still in flux. Moreover, children and teenagers may be more susceptible to pressure from parents or peers to take the drugs in order to achieve academically, the researchers warned.
A version of this article appeared in the March 27, 2013 edition of Education Week as Pediatric Group Warns About ‘Smart Drugs’