NEW ORLEANS, LA (WLOX) - About two million children in the United States have Attention Deficit Disorder. For many kids, a diagnosis leads to prescription meds. But how much is too much?
A growing number of children in the U.S. are being treated with ADHD medications, and some experts believe many kids are over-medicated. In fact, a doctor at LSU's Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, is making it his mission to reduce those medications at his "Get Kids Off Medications" clinic.
Nine-year-old Rebecca Lopez is part of the study. Two years ago, Rebecca's teachers told her mom Christina Lopez that they suspected ADD.
"I thought maybe she would grow out of it, it was a stage, anything but that," Lopez said.
Medication that was supposed to help did just the opposite.
"She was so medicated for so long she went from one extreme to another."
Child Psychiatrist Martin Irwin, from LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, said at least a quarter of the kids he sees are overmedicated.
"We see kids on four to five medicines with four or five different diagnoses or labels," Dr. Irwin said.
His mission is to get kids off unnecessary drugs.
ADD medications can have side effects like tremors, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart palpitations and more. Eight-year-old Nigel Wilson's meds were causing panic attacks and weight loss.
"He was on a medicine that's closely related to Ritalin at 40 milligrams. Now, he's on Ritalin at 2.5 milligrams, twice a day."
After one month, there are big changes. Nigel's Mom said, "He's calmer, his appetite is better, he's able to stay focused."
Nigel said it makes school easier.
"I don't get out of my seat anymore."
Doctor Irwin said many kids can reduce the amount and number of meds they take. Natural remedies like a healthy diet, exercise and therapy sessions can help keep them stay calm.
Irwin cut Rebecca's ADD meds by more than 70 percent. Now, she's happy and energetic, and able to stay on task.