Almost three million kids in the U.S. take prescription meds for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), so they’ll sit still in school and get better grades. But get this: There’s no real proof that those meds improve academic performance.
In an 11-year study, boys who took ADHD meds actually did worse in school than kids with the disorder who didn’t. And while the meds didn’t hurt the girls’ grades, they actually reported more emotional problems. Plus other research has shown that ADHD meds don’t raise grade point averages, increase high school graduation rates, or improve standardized test scores.
Now if you’re a parent whose child takes ADHD meds, you’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute. I can definitely see a difference in my child’s focus and concentration.” And a number of studies show that medications like Ritalin and Adderall provide short-term improvement in those areas. But University of Pennsylvania neuroscientist Dr. Martha Farah says that even though the medication may help kids focus, it won’t help them decide what to focus on. When Dr. Farah interviewed students, she found that many of them reported having long phone calls, marathon videogame sessions, and even bursts of cleaning their rooms, after taking meds. Even though they didn’t do their homework.
That’s why most experts say parents of ADHD kids shouldn’t rely solely on medication. Parents should also be helping their kids learn the skills they need to organize and prioritize their work and ways to set and reach their goals. Then they can do well in school and in the working world once they grow up.