Divorce increases drugging up kids

New research by a University of Alberta sociologist shows that kids of divorced parents are much more likely to be prescribed Ritalin:

Dr. Lisa Strohschein, in a study appearing in this week’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that children whose parents divorce are nearly twice as likely to be prescribed Ritalin compared to children whose parents remain together.

I ride the fence when it comes to Ritalin and the like. I believe ADHD is a real condition, and one that can be treated with proper use of medication. But I also think that, like Prozac, the drugs are prescribed way too often by general practitioners not qualified to make an assessment. My initial thought when reading the opening of the article was that maybe the kids developed behavioral problems because of the stress of the divorce, and the same stress diminished the custodial parent’s coping skills leading them to turn to pharmaceuticals for support. Turns out Dr. Strohschein agrees:

One potential explanation for the higher use of Ritalin could be that divorce is stressful and some kids develop mental health problems and are then appropriately prescribed the drug, says Strohschein.

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But there is also the possibility that divorce acts a stressful life event that creates adjustment problems for children, which might increase acting out behaviour, leading to a prescription for Ritalin.

It’s this reckless use of Ritalin that creates the stigma of shame and guilt for parents whose kids can really benefit from it.