Dadvice #8: Too Young To Medicate ADHD And Bipolar Disorder?

16 months.

Yesterday for April Fool’s Day, I wrote a satire on putting kids on calorie counting diets, forcing them to compete in beauty pageants, and medicating them for ADHD and bipolar disorder.

Back in 2002 while in college, I was a substitute teacher. I remember how for several Kindergartners, I had to make sure they took their medicine for ADHD. I didn’t agree with what I was doing, but I wasn’t their parent; nor was I even their real teacher.

Recently I pitched this question to everyone on Facebook and Twitter:

“How young is too young to medicate a child for ADHD and/or bipolar disorder?”

Very few people were willing to answer this question, but those who did A) are school teachers and B) replied that children shouldn’t be medicated for those things at all.

I think in our culture it has become taboo to talk about this subject openly because so many adults are on some kind of prescription for depression. To speak against medicating any person for a psychiatric disorder is a sure fire way to offend plenty of people in your social network of friends, family, and random people on Facebook you pretend to remember from college.

But I’m not talking about adults being treated for psychiatric disorders, I’m wanting to have an open discussion about kids being medically treated for these things.

The question I am asking is how young is too young for a child to be treated for ADHD and bipolar disorder?

See, I am trying to find out how America truly feels about this issue; whether you support it, oppose it, or are confused by it.

(I’m not talking about Autism, by the way.)

I should point out why I keep relating ADHD and bipolar disorder as if they are related. That’s because, according to the documentary Frontline: The Medicated Child (available on Netflix streaming,, and YouTube), of all the children who are diagnosed with ADHD, 23% of them also are diagnosed as bipolar.

As of 2008 when the documentary was made, there were over 6 million kids being treated for ADHD and depression. I can’t imagine that number has gotten any lower since then.

See the slippery slope? Get medicated for ADHD at age 6 and work your way up to depression medication by the time you’re 10 years old.

It’s evidently unethical and socially unacceptable to test out psychiatric drugs on children before the drugs go out on the market, so children are given the same medication that are given to adults.

Either way, kids become the Guinea pigs for these drugs.

So how are children diagnosed for these psychiatric disorders anyway? According to Frontline: The Medicated Child, it really just comes down to a doctor’s simple analysis:

The key behaviors of ADHD sufferers are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

And for bipolar disorder: euphoria or irritability, grandiose ideas, excessive talking, racing thoughts, and unusual energy.

I guess the question is, how is every kid in America not a sufferer of ADHD or bipolar disorder? More importantly, how is my 16 month-old toddler not the poster child for these psychiatric disorders?

Obviously, I’m leaving myself open for someone to say, “You don’t know what it’s like to raise a child with ADHD and/or depression…”.

That’s right. I don’t and I won’t.

Because I’m drawing the behavioral boundaries for him; even now. He can’t even speak a full sentence yet, but he is already very aware of what he can and can not do.

As he tests my limits, he is not given empty threats; instead he actually sees a follow-through with instant consequences.

I do the main behavioral training in my house for my kid. No thanks to a doctor; no thanks to medicine.

Yes, that’s right: I said “behavioral training.” Children need to be properly trained; not treated.




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  1. by Heidi

    On April 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Wow, as a psychologist I am a little disturbed by your lack of research as ADHD and Bipolar disorder are biological brain based disabilities. As far as I know, you can’t say that behavior training can override brain based disorders. I am all for behavior training and rules in the home. I believe that they can and do help children with these disorders, but they do not fix everything. That’s like saying because you don’t give your kids sugar they will never come down with Diabetes, not true!!! Telling a child to calm down when he is in a manic episode won’t fix anything, but medications might help it so he/she won’t harm himself or others. Also, as far as the diagnostic criteria, while yes psychologists look at hyperactivity, euphoria, etc… that is not the only thing they look at. Diagnosis for children who are bipolar often take months and years, and are not taken lightly. While I agree that there is over medication in kids with ADHD, I have also seen first hand the kids who were not learning anything in class because they couldn’t focus, and after medication became star students. I believe in every parents right to medicate or not medicate, but it depends on the circumstances and the health and safety of the child.

  2. by Nick Shell

    On April 2, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Heidi, thank you for your feedback. In your opinion, out of all the children being medicated for ADHD in America, what percentage would you say should not be?

  3. by Heidi

    On April 3, 2012 at 10:19 am

    About 15-20%. There are some parents out there who want a “quick fix” and aren’t willing to put in time to teach their kids strategies that would help them control some of their symptoms. The vast majority of parents don’t take medicating lightly and do whatever they can to help their children.

  4. by Nick Shell

    On April 3, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Thank you Heidi. In your professional opinion, what is the youngest appropriate age for a child to be medically treated for ADHD?

  5. by Heidi

    On April 4, 2012 at 10:23 am


  6. by Nick Shell

    On April 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks again, Heidi. I appreciate your willingness to help me sort this out. Next question: What are the official symptoms of ADHD? How is this diagnosis different than that of a gifted child?

  7. by Dean

    On October 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I think the answer to your question is simple. It depends on the child themself. I have a little girl has been diagnossed with these two disorders along with ODD (oppositional diffiance disorder). There are very clear differences between her and our ither children. Her biological mother was a drug addict her whole pregnancy and this is the root cause of her issues . We have tried all sorts of counseling and other nonmedication treatments but non have worked. We are about to yalk to the doctorabout possible medications for her and she is only two and a half. We have exhausted every option before trying the medicatiin route. The studies i have seen showed great improvement in certain children but not much for others. Every case should be evaluated by multiple doctors .

  8. by mel

    On October 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    It is always too young to medicate for ADD, ADHD, Bipolar, Depression etc. Often times these medications will alter the brain chemistry making it almost impossible for an individual to function without. Putting individuals on these medications also increases the suicide rate by 3 times not only in teens but as young as a 4year old in Florida. These medications also increase violent crimes such as columbine, mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado Theater, crossroads mall in Omaha, NE and other places. Read the label no seriously read the entire label that comes in the packages all of it. It states in the paper work somehow or another how it increases violence, hallucinations etc. 90% of sped kids are boys. Boys develop as much as two years or so behind girls this includes in reading, language, fine motor skills (because wrist joints are not developed fully), ability to sit still, etc. Boys are naturally more aggressive, squirmy, wiggly, and fidgety and have been since the beginning of time. Really think about it, who had to fight to protect the family if the big bad dinosaur or bear or tiger or bad man was threatening the family, who went hunting it wasn’t the artsy guy they probably didn’t survive so well way back when. Who did women want to be the protector and provider someone who was crafty or the top brave or warrior I would want the top one. Today we are trying to raise boys like little girls and don’t hit don’t kick sit here really quite and learn don’t hold the door for anyone don’t help the little old lady because you are equal to a little girl and no more. What if 90%of little our girls were being put in SPED classes and medicated as heavily as little boys and suspended from school as often as little boys. I am pretty sure many Americans would be picketing that, but it’s okay when it’s our young men. I think we got something backwards here. Maybe our schools are all set up wrong for little boys. Maybe a little boy’s school where boys can learn from a get up and move around hands on type of education or at least until they are 10ish with some sit-down writing skills dispersed throughout the day would be better. Maybe rather than teachers illegally diagnosing our children as ADD, ADHD or some other medical issue would be more beneficial to our kids. Maybe they should be the teacher that they went to school for and not a medical doctor that they have no license to practice. Think about this EACH individual school with in a district not the school district as a whole, for example the town I live in there are I think 10 or 12 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, 1 high school, and at least 3 private schools, plus preschools, that means there are at least 16 plus schools in my district that are fighting for our tax dollars and the more they diagnose means the more of our tax money they get if they can diagnose something medically wrong with our children and they don’t care that this child in the future may not be able to get medical coverage because the schools and teachers are greedy and want money for themselves. I am not saying that we pay the teachers enough. Teachers absolutely work their tails off for the better of our children but can’t we find another way to go about paying them what they deserve besides medicating kids who are merely at a development stage and acting like kids in that stage of normal development. Another point to think about is that ADD, ADHD, depression, etc. are diagnosed via a check list, so you may say or think. Ask your doctor to do a MMRI of your brain and blood work to see if the chemicals in your brain so you know whether or not you have any brain disorder such as ADHD, ADD, depression, bipolar, etc. they would probably think you to be a little out there or take you for a run for your money you decide. Or what if your doctor asked you are you feeling tired, bruise easy, and did no blood work pee test and diagnosed you as having leukemia and wanted you to start treatment for it immediately what would you say sure doctor your always right. Mean after all that’s what we’re doing to our children with ADD, ADHD etc. Medications for ADD, ADHD and others don’t make the good grades any more than not taking them sometimes we just have to understand that we all are different and that not everyone loves school more than anything in the world and some of us okay most of us develop at different rates and in different ways deal with it.

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