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Pediatricians in Quebec raise an alarm over the over-treatment of children

Adderall drug hyperactivity tablets. Using ADHD medicines is much more frequent in Quebec than elsewhere in Canada, statistics show.

JB Reed / Bloomberg News

A group of 48 pediatricians and researchers denounces a sharp increase in the number of children in Quebec who have been diagnosed with ADHD and the use of medicines for treatment.

The group invites all involved – including parents, teachers, psychologists, and doctors – to review their decision-making when it comes to treating a child for treating behavioral problems.

In an open letter, health professionals complain that society has become too comfortable in using medication in response to behavioral problems.

Referring to the National Institute of Excellence in Health Care and Social Services statistics, they also claim that the use of ADHD drugs is much more common in Quebec than elsewhere in Canada.

At age 10 to 12, 13.97 percent of young people use psychostimulant drugs in Quebec. This rate increases to 14.5 percent among young people aged 13 to 17. In the rest of the country, rates for the same age group are only 5.08% or 4.3%.

Pediatrician Guy Falardeau says the trend is worrisome because it shows that parents are increasingly trying to cure their children with drugs instead of seeking other causes related to mental health, emotion and the child's social environment.

When a child has a problem in behavior, we rather call it ADHD alone and give them drugs.

"When a child has a problem in behavior, we would rather call it ADHD alone and give them drugs instead of asking why they act the way they are," Falardeau said.

"The danger is that in some cases we actually treat ADHD, but in others we simply cover the mental health problem."

Falardeau warns that masking anxiety or other disorders by taking drugs will delay the moment when the problem inevitably explodes. Mental illness is harder to heal as long as they have to progress, he stressed.

"What we want is that children are properly evaluated," he said. "We need to help those who have emotional or social issues, and do not change the behavior of a child with drugs."

Parents who talked with La Presse Canadienne all argued that the problem was mostly a "problem of schooling".

Parents of a boy who could not sit quietly while attending school said that they were quickly informed about the problem and told them to think about drugs.

"They did not press us, but we felt like we had to do something," Father said.


Several consultations later, they told them that their son had ADHD. Soon thereafter, a prescription for medication followed.

But the cure, Father said, worked only during school days. At night and his son, his son does not take drugs and everything is fine. "He's moving, he's dealing with sports."

The father said he was wondering whether the problem was whether the children spent enough energy in the school.

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