Neurology Experts Draw Attention To Teenage Overuse Of Memory-Enhancing Drugs
March 14, 2013

Neurology Experts Draw Attention To Teenage Overuse Of Memory-Enhancing Drugs

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

A growing trend in the use of “study drugs” by teens has come under fire by the country´s top neurological group. Memory-enhancing drugs are being increasingly prescribed by doctors to give children and teens a boost in their cognitive function to help them focus more, study harder and perform better in school.

But the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and a Yale University neurologist are drawing fire on the practice, saying the use of memory-enhancing drugs (neuroenhancements) on children whose brains are still developing may do more harm than good.

In a statement, published in the March 13 online issue of the journal Neurology, the Academy addressed the growing trend of parents requesting doctors prescribe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs for their children, even when their children do not meet the criteria for the disorder. The AAN spent several years analyzing data, research and ethical issues pertaining to the use of memory-enhancing drugs before being able to develop an official position statement on the topic.

"Doctors caring for children and teens have a professional obligation to always protect the best interests of the child, to protect vulnerable populations, and prevent the misuse of medication," said author William Graf, MD, of Yale University, and a member of the AAN. "The practice of prescribing these drugs, called neuroenhancements, for healthy students is not justifiable."

Graf and his colleagues with the AAN provide evidence that offers ethical, legal, social and developmental reasons why use of such drugs for healthy people is viewed much differently in children and adolescents than it would be in functional, independent adults with full decision-making capacities.

Some critical reasons why memory-enhancing drugs should not be prescribed to healthy children and teens include: long-term health and safety of such drugs, which have not been studied in healthy children; kids and teens may lack complete decision-making capacities while their cognitive abilities are still developing; and risks of over-medication and dependency. The group also noted that the use of such drugs may not be in a child´s best interest and may lead to problems in maintaining doctor-patient trust.

"A physician should talk to the child about the request, as it may reflect other medical, social, or psychological motivations such as anxiety, depression, or insomnia," said Graf in a statement.

Graf noted that there are other alternatives to taking memory-enhancing drugs available. These alternatives include maintaining healthy sleep, better nutrition, developing good study habits, becoming more active and exercising.