Dr. Sheryl Ziegler of CereScan, response to 10/9/12 New York Times article, “Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School”
A recent article in the New York Times highlighted and brought to the forefront America’s obsession with a quick fix using overmedication in an irresponsible fashion. This time it centers around children. Low income children who are struggling in school and are therefore being treated by doctors who are willing to prescribe them medication, in many cases without a diagnosis, for the sake of helping young children improve their grades and focus in school.
The article does an adequate job pointing out the obvious and inherent flaws with this type of practice as well as the doctor rationale for such medical treatment approaches.
However, what the article does not discuss is a counterpoint for the doctor’s arguments that ADHD has “completely subjective” diagnostic criteria and that ADHD “isn’t binary – you have it or you don’t.” There are in fact, objective diagnostic neuro-imaging techniques available to accurately assess which areas of the brain may or may not be compromised. No longer does it have to be the guessing game days of making psychiatric diagnoses such as ADHD without substantial, statistically relevant support. Physicians can refer their patients to have their brain scanned and then receive an objective and comprehensive report that can help them formulate the best treatment plan for their patient. These treatment plans could include best decisions regarding medications and otherwise.
The challenge with this is money (most insurance plans do not cover these scans yet) and the doctor’s willingness to learn more about these neuro-imaging techniques. In an age of big pharmaceutical dollars, an abundance of advertisements on television for the next pill that can help with just about anything and a society that wants a quick fix we are seeing practices such as those described in the New York Times. We are seeing children of all ages being prescribed medications irresponsibly because families and school systems cannot afford, do not choose or do not know how to access more accurate diagnostic information.
The brain imaging data, provided by CereScan to parents and schools on many occasions challenges this trend, and they will continue to work to gain a broader acceptance in the medical community. Parents and schools are starting to take notice. John Kelley, CEO of CereScan mentions, “We have had increasing numbers of parents and school systems inquire as to exactly what kind of information we can provide them, and whether it can further clarify the question as to whether certain medications can improve a particular students performance in school.” He continues, “It really comes back to the accuracy of the diagnosis handed down, and many parents are weary of putting their children on mind altering medications before they know for sure. That is where CereScan can help, since we offer a way for them to know for sure.”
For a full text of the New York Times article, please click here.
-Dr. Sheryl Gonzalez Ziegler
Dr. Ziegler is the founder and managing director of The Child & Family Therapy Center at Lowry. She is a Counseling Psychologist and Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Colorado. Dr. Ziegler is a member of the Colorado Association for Play Therapy, American Psychological Association and started the Spousal Forum for the Colorado chapter of Entrepreneur Organization (EO). She is also a consultant to CereScan.