Neurologists say no study drugs for healthy kids

March 18, 2013

Prescribing drugs solely to boost thinking and memory functions in children and adolescents who do not have neurologic disorders is not justified, says the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in a new position paper on the use of neuroenhancing drugs in children.

Prescribing drugs solely to boost thinking and memory functions in children and adolescents who do not have neurologic disorders is not justified, nor should physicians acquiesce to parents seeking such medications to improve their children’s academic performance, says the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in a new position paper on the use of neuroenhancing drugs in children.

Academy researchers note that prescriptions written for stimulants and other psychotropic medications to treat children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have increased substantially during the past 20 years. However, there also is a growing trend of healthy adolescents using the same neuroenhancing drugs to improve their own cognitive functioning before exams and of parents asking physicians to prescribe these drugs to boost their children’s focus or memory.

The researchers also point out the alarming rise in recreational use of stimulant medications as teenagers and college students illegally share these prescription drugs with friends.

The position paper, the first to focus on the practice of prescribing stimulants for healthy children, is supported by several years of research that studied ethical, legal, social, and neurodevelopmental issues related to pediatric neuroenhancement and the role of physicians who care for children and adolescents.

Based on its research, the AAN finds that the long-term health effects of taking neuroenhancement drugs have not been established; that children should be free to develop their cognitive skills, emotional abilities, and decision making without the influence of medications; that physicians have ethical and moral obligations to evaluate requests for neuroenhancing medications from pediatric patients or their parents so to safeguard their physical and mental health; and that prescribers are obligated to prevent the misuse or diversion of controlled drugs.

The position paper concludes that prescribing neuroenhancement drugs to children without a diagnosis of a neurologic disorder is “not justifiable.”