Thursday , February 25 2021

Pediatricians in Quebec warn of overuse of children

Drug tablets Hyperactivity Adderall. The use of medications to treat ADHD is much more common in Quebec than in other parts of Canada, according to statistics.

JB Reed / Bloomberg News

A group of 48 pediatricians and researchers report a marked increase in the number of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in Quebec and the use of medication to treat it.

The group is calling on all concerned – including parents, teachers, psychologists and doctors – to rethink their decision-making when it comes to whether a child should be medicated to treat behavioral problems.

In an open letter, health experts deplore how society has become too comfortable with the use of medications in response to behavioral problems.

Citing statistics from the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services, they also argue that the use of medications to treat ADHD is much more common in Quebec than in other parts of Canada.

Among young people aged 10 to 12 years, 13.97 percent of young people use psychostimulant medications in Quebec. This rate rises to 14.5% between 13 and 17 years of age. In the rest of the country, rates for the same age groups are only 5.08% and 4.3%, respectively.

Pediatrician Guy Falardeau says the trend is worrying because it shows that parents are increasingly trying to treat children with medications instead of looking for other causes related to mental health, emotions and the social environment of the child.

When a child has a behavioral problem, we prefer to call it ADHD and give it medication. "

"When a child has a behavioral problem, we prefer to call it ADHD and give it medication instead of questioning why it is acting that way," said Falardeau.

"The danger is that in some cases we are actually treating ADHD, but in others we are just masking a mental health problem."

Falardeau warns that masking anxiety or other disorders with medications ends up delaying the moment when the issue inevitably explodes. Mental illnesses are harder to treat, the more time they have had to progress, he noted.

"What we want is for children to be properly evaluated," he said. "We should help those who have emotional or social problems, and not change the child's behavior with medications."

Parents who have spoken to La Presse Canadienne have argued that the problem is primarily a matter of schooling.

The parents of a boy who could not stand still when he started school said they were quickly warned about the problem and told to consider the medication.

"They were not pushing us, but we felt like we needed to do something," his father said.


Some consultations later, they said that their child had ADHD. A prescription for medication followed soon after.

But the medication, his father said, only worked during the school day. On evenings and weekends, the child does not take any medication and is well. "He's moving, he's practicing sports."

The father said he wonders if the real question is whether children are spending enough energy at school.

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