Changing Children’s Body Chemistry – Stimulant Medication

If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves. C. G. Jung.

Out of every 10 hyperactive children taking medication, at least nine are taking stimulant medication. Of these nine, eight are talking the most popular form of stimulant, Ritalin. Despite its popularity, many teachers have questions about stimulant medication: (a) how does it work inside a child’s body?; (b) how is it administered?; (c) what are the pros and cons?; (d) are there any serious side effects?; (e) does it work?; (f) when is it a reasonable alternative?; (g) how do I explain drugs to a hyperactive child and his classmates?; (h) what is my role in medication?

This chapter provides you with current information on these issues. For every question, however, there is not always a straight answer. For instance, we do not know if Ritalin has any serious long-term side effects, because it’s a relatively new drug, and people who took it when they were younger still have not reached old age. We also do not know precisely how stimulant medication works. In fact, we’re not even sure of what hyperactivity is, or how it is caused.

In addition, giving drugs to a child has many moral, social, and ethical strings attached to it, which tend to bias how we interpret information. As you read through this chapter, I encourage you not to look for answers or confirmations of feelings you already have, but to keep an open mind and respect the notion that many sides exist to the story of stimulant medication.

On most medication issues I take a middle-of-the-road approach. I find this way of thinking the most realistic. Hyperactivity and stimulant medication are topics which defy generalizations. It seems for every dig-my-heels-in-the-ground stance I’ve taken in the past, an exception has crossed my path and made me reconsider my view.