Do Toddlers Really Need to Be Treated for ADHD?

I forgot one of my pet peeves in my post last week so I am devoting a whole post to this particular peeve as I find it rather alarming.  What is it?  Toddlers on ADHD medications.  Before I dive into this subject, let me address a few possible objections to me posting my thoughts on this matter.  No, I am not an expert in child psychology or development.  Do I have any children of my own? No, not yet.  When I do have children, like many parents, won't I be tempted to medicate them for the terrible two's?  Yes, I think I will but I won't.  I refuse.  Instead I will rely on sound discipline and ear plugs.

Working as a nurse practitioner, I have seen a steady rise in the number of children on ADHD medications such as Concerta and Adderall.  Curiously, I have seen an increase especially in the number of very young children, as young as two and three years old, on these medications.  My mind reels.  How can a two-year-old have ADHD?!  Don't ALL two-year-olds have ADHD?  Pediatricians are putting kids on these medications to shut-up parents with lack of patience and discipline.  My unfortunate suspicion is that these toddlers being placed on ADHD medications (a form of amphetamine) will a. develop meth mouth by the age of 5 and b. remain on these medications unnecessarily their entire lives.

Healthychildren.org explains three warning signs of early-onset ADHD.  They include inattention (easily distracted, disorganization, does not seem to listen), hyperactivity (frequently squirms and fidgets, talks too much, cannot stay seated) and impulsivity (has trouble taking turns, cannot wait for things, may run into the street without looking for traffic).  Yup, sounds like every two to four year old I know.  So, should I go and give them all a daily dose of Adderall?  

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend diagnosis and treatment of ADHD until six to twelve years of age.  So, I say, pediatricians, give our kids a chance.  Learn to say "No" to persistent parents.  Parents, instead of pushing your child down the road of daily medications and an excuse for poor behavior at the age of two, take a parenting class.  Be willing to be the bad-guy and take the necessary steps to train your child how to behave properly.  Reconvene with your pediatrician somewhere around middle school and see how things are going.  You may get away pharma-free.