Even 2-Year Olds Are Being Prescribed Ritalin

There may be as many as 10,000 American toddlers on stimulant drugs for ADHD

Roderick Chen/First Light/Corbis

There comes a point when you have wonder—if a behavior is so prevalent, is it really fair to call it a disorder? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year, 11 percent of all 4- to 17-year-olds, and one in five high school boys, has been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some 3.5 million children in the United States are taking medication for ADHD—that's 69 percent of those diagnosed with the disorder, and 6 percent of the total population of 4- to 17-year-olds.

Kids with ADHD are already being diagnosed young—the average age of diagnosis is just 6 years old, though kids with more severe cases are being pegged at just 4. But according to the New York Times, some kids are being diagnosed and prescribed medication, at ages as young as two years old. Such an early diagnosis, the Times says, is silly—and potentially dangerous.

For starters, a toddler that seems to have ADHD might just be... a toddler, for whom “hyperactivity and impulsivity are developmentally appropriate," according to the experts the Times talked to. And we have basically no idea how medications like Ritalin and Adderall work on children so young. The Times:

Dr. Lawrence H. Diller, a behavioral pediatrician in Walnut Creek, Calif., said in a telephone interview: “People prescribing to 2-year-olds are just winging it. It is outside the standard of care, and they should be subject to malpractice if something goes wrong with a kid.”

Based on an estimate made by scaling up the rate of stimulate prescriptions to toddlers in Georgia, researchers think that as many as 10,000 such overprescriptions exist nationwide.

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