ADHD Stimulant Use Again Strongly Linked to School Accountability


Wealthier children are more likely to take stimulants only during the school year and not during the summer, according to a study in American Sociological Review. And they are also more likely to do so if they are living in a state where schools face legal accountability requirements for children to perform to certain standards.

“By analyzing a dataset that includes the majority of prescriptions written for stimulants in the United States, we find a substantial effect of schooling on stimulant use,” wrote the researchers. “In our study, one in three children engaged in school-based stimulant use — that is, increasing stimulant medications during the academic year. This practice was more common among children and adolescents of higher socioeconomic status.”

The researchers also found that, “In states with more stringent accountability policies, we observed greater selective stimulant use.”

“Collectively, our findings suggest that economically advantaged families are more likely than their less advantaged peers to use stimulants in response to academic performance pressure,” the researchers concluded. “Our study uncovers a new pathway through which medical interventions may act as a resource for higher socioeconomic status families to transmit educational advantages to their children, either intentionally or unwittingly.” The researchers also noted, however, that the scientific literature did not provide evidence that stimulant use improves school performance over the long term.

Another study previously reported by Mad In America found links between school performance accountability legislation and increases in stimulant prescribing.

(Abstract) Medical Adaptation to Academic Pressure Schooling, Stimulant Use, and Socioeconomic Status (King, Marissa D. et al. American Sociological Review. Published online before print October 13, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0003122414553657)


  1. As a youth worker and substitute teacher and not a full time teacher, counselor, or administrator I don’t have as direct access to the psych records of the youth that I serve, and I kind of like it that way. It lessens the likely hood of stereotyping the students on my part. Though at times I do interject a critical approach into the subject when dealing with older students, it seems that many of our youth in the system take the claims of psychiatry at face value.
    In my role as a transport worker I take youth to counseling appointments as well transport medication between agencies. I also have learned a little something out the drug testing business. My employment brings me into contact with a vast array of institutions and people from a vast array of walks of life. It seems that some in the community have a healthy skepticism of the drugging of children, but the beast chugs on nonetheless.

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  2. Study steroids are great for getting high and acing the test at the same time but it’s almost like doing anabolic steroids for physical education in that you don’t get to keep the gains and its phony.

    I only remember a quarter of the information I aced tests on years ago on taking that ADHD stuff.

    The stimulant’s only increase short term storage by making boring stuff seem interesting and making it more “sticky” in the memory section of the mind.

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  3. I have always said that the main cause of ADHD is SCHOOL! There was a great study back in the 70s that showed that “ADHD” kids were virtually indistinguishable from “normal” kids if they were in a classroom that allowed more spontaneous movement and decision-making by the kids. It is primarily the rigidity of the educational environment that drives most of these kids around the bend. Some kids (I was one) are able to suppress their inherent sense of boredom and injustice and put their nose to the proverbial grindstone, no matter how stupid or inane the assignment. Some are not able to do that, and these kids get diagnosed with a “disease,” rather than looking at how or why the teaching they receive is so incredibly dull and rigid that they are unable to tolerate it.

    —- Steve

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    • This isn’t the first time that I’ve seconded one of your posts about how boring and dull and rigid the American educational system truly is. I am a former teacher who taught in Catholic schools. Any teacher who thinks outside of the box and encourages kids to do the same doesn’t last long in the system, either the public or the Catholic systems. The students are not encouraged to think for themselves and they’re never supposed to question anything that an authority figure says. And they better never cause a problem in the classroom.

      How convenient that we come up with a diagnosis that will lead to large numbers of overactive and inquisitive kids getting drugged to the gills, simply for being kids. Many parents and most teachers don’t want to deal with kids that take a lot of attention and creative thinking to deal with. It’s so much easier to just drug them and make them sit still and be quiet.

      On my off periods I used to stroll down the halls and listen to what was going on in the classroom of the school I taught in. It was awful and I’d wonder to myself how in the world the students ever put up with it.

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