Are Children Overmedicated?

U.S. health experts Wednesday concluded a conference about the most commonly found disorder in America's children: Hyperactive Behavior Disorder. CBS News Correspondent John Roberts reports.

Jarryd Novotni is a pretty normal twelve year old, a far cry from his early childhood.

"When he was about one and a half, he jumped out of our living room window," says Michele Novotni. "He would color on the walls, he ripped stuffing out of the couch. He tore down curtains."

Jarryd has ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a condition that drove him out of control until age 5, when he started taking Ritalin.

"Within 20 minutes of his first dose of Ritalin, I had a child back," says Jarryd's mother. "That's all it took."

Ritalin can almost be a lifesaver for children like Jarryd. But, with two and a half million prescriptions for the drug written last year, many people are wondering if ADHD is being over diagnosed.

Critics question if Ritalin is used as a catchall for other childhood problems and worry that children are overmedicated.

The conference on ADHD, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, failed to come up with any clear answers.

"You can't really simply say that it's overdiagnosed and overtreated, cause there are many, if you will, important areas where it's underdiagnosed and we would conclude undertreated," says David Kupfer, NIH Conference Chairman.

One problem is there's no clear test for ADHD. While the NIH is studying whether there is physical evidence of the disorder in the brain, for now doctors, like Marian Callaghan of St. Christopher's Children's Hospital, have to rely on their instincts and training.

"You want to make sure that you are not just dealing with someone who is a normal, very active child," says Dr. Callaghan.

The NIH conference called for more research into ADHD and better guidelines for diagnosis and treatment. The NIH is working to insure fewer children will be medicated unnecessarily and more, like Jarryd Novotni, can live a normal life.

Reported By John Roberts
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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