I think all of us as a society are dependent on medicine, but we as adults choose to take the medicine and many of the safety studies are done using adults. It is a different scenario with children, and being that they are actually taking the same medications that adults would (just in different dosages) it opens the doors for many potential dangers. If a child has been medicated since Elementary school, how will he or she even know how to cope on their own and use other cognitive processes in the future (without medication). Dependency may be a huge issue as these kids grow older.
As usual, the answers provided before me are very good. We should certainly beware the dangers of over-medicating anyone. I'd be interested to know what, specifically, surprised you as a result of your research. Can you give us any more details?
I agree with everyone: over-medication causes as many problems as it solves. Most, if not all, issues with students are directly related to their home-life and how they get along with their parents. Many kids are simply not used to sitting still because their life at home consists of constant low-brain stimulation through TV and video games. Moderation is all, both in entertainment and medication. As a society, we should start holding parents to some standard of parenting... although that leads down the slippery slope to pregnancy licenses....
While I'm probably in the majority (of teachers) in believing that medication is probably more often abused than used appropriately, I will also speak to the minority opinion that in a traditional classroom, most educating would actually be impossible without the number of children who are on medication, taking their meds.
Unfortunately, we have a system in place that caters to large groups of students, who may or may not have enforced boundaries in their home life. Put 25-30 of these kids in a room together with one teacher and ONE curriculum, and well, in this case, aderol and ritalin are on MY side.
In a perfect world, classroom sizes would be smaller. Curriculum would be less mainstreamed and have more room for incorporation of muliple learning styles. Teachers would have more on the job training and discipline support. In such a world, perhaps students would thrive without medication.
Are you talking about medicating for ADD and such? I find that some children are definitely medicated too early and too often. Many times doctors prescribe medications for children without really being aware of the effects on their developing brains. Sometimes kids are sick and need medicine, but we should not just assume that they will react to medications the same way adults do.
I think we have become a society where parents believe that a pill can undo their lack of parenting skills. Children have to learn self-control, and if they are not taught, then they develop differently from what is considered the norm, and are likely to be deemed in need of medication when they start school.
There are studies showing that small children who watch TV shows which cut rapidly from scene to scene have more difficulty concentrating on tasks than children who do not watch such shows. This shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, as your brain works the way you train it to work. What are parents thinking? Or are they not thinking at all? One has to wonder.
Medications have so many side effects. I think that students should be put through some intensive counseling and re-training before medication is attempted. I agree with #3, we are raising a generation that expects to be able to take a pill to solve any problem, and that is not healthy or realistic.
There are any number of articles available that testify to the harms of medicating children too much. Drugs for depression are especially dangerous for teens, so counseling may help. But teen angst is real and we adults have all survived. Young people today need to learn to not be too dependent upon drugs for their well-being; they must work through problems themselves sometimes. Of course, there are exceptional cases....And, there are many dilemmas to finding a solution.
I've seen both the good and the bad sides of children who are medicated while attending school. Some of the kids are so lethargic (when taking their meds) that they must not be getting much out of the time they spend in class; others simply fall asleep and learn nothing. Other kids who are off their meds are virtually uncontrollable. And, no doubt some kids function capably when medicated. In any case, it's just another part of school life that both teachers and students have to deal with.