Don’t wait — medicate
School is a trying time for everyone. But for children who are clinically obese, school can be unbearable. Prescribing a quick, easy pill to cause weight loss in obese youths seems like a win-win situation.
Many pediatricians have found that prescribing medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), specifically the drug Adderall, can curb an overweight child’s appetite, and promote weight loss. A recent article on CNN.com followed the story of Alex Veith, who at age 11 was 30 pounds overweight (despite his healthy lifestyle) and to whom doctors prescribed Adderall.
Veith lost the weight he needed to over the course of a single summer, but his overall health may not have benefited. Veith’s parents said that before losing the weight, their son was headed for Type 2 diabetes. However, preventing the onset of diabetes with a drug whose side effects include insomnia, nervousness, addiction, and even death, defeats the purpose of trying to make a child healthier in the first place.
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of ADHD medications for treating obesity. This hasn’t stopped doctors from prescribing ADHD medication, though. It is perfectly legal for doctors to prescribe medication “off label,” and many do, even though, according to Dr. John Lantos, professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago, “It’s morally and medically questionable, so I don’t think anyone’s proud of doing this.”
Parents too should be held accountable. Despite the risks and difficulties of having a clinically overweight child, parents must recognize the danger of and resist the urge to medicate their children.
Adderall is already abused on college campuses as a study aid and quick fix for sleep deprivation. Imagine a new generation of college students, who are already used to popping pills, tackling a homework assignment or project by heading not for the library, but the medicine cabinet.
It is a bleak prospect to consider that someday there may be more demand for a 24-hour pharmacy on campus than gym facilities. Kids may find the process of diet and exercise way too arduous compared to just taking a few pills. But prescribing a quick-fix drug to forestall a condition that might otherwise be treatable through a stricter diet and more exercise only teaches children that doing something the hard way isn’t worth the extra effort.