Los Angeles Juvenile Defense Attorney

Archive for the ‘Prescription Drugs’ Category

Giving Adderall to Poor Children Who Don’t Have ADHD

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Adderall is a prescription drug that the FDA approved to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  According to a recent New York Times article, Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School,certain doctors are taking it upon themselves to prescribe Adderall to underprivileged children who don’t exhibit the symptoms of ADHD.   The doctors justify this practice on the grounds that Adderall helps children focus and earn better grades.

Some people who support this practice also point out that it is cheaper and in the short run more effective than fixing crumbling schools, making them safer, funding them properly, or doing the other things that would improve the academic performance of our children.

Several educators contacted for this article considered the subject of A.D.H.D. so controversial — the diagnosis was misused at times, they said, but for many children it is a serious learning disability — that they declined to comment. The superintendent of one major school district in California, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that diagnosis rates of A.D.H.D. have risen as sharply as school funding has declined.

“It’s scary to think that this is what we’ve come to; how not funding public education to meet the needs of all kids has led to this,” said the superintendent, referring to the use of stimulants in children without classic A.D.H.D. “I don’t know, but it could be happening right here. Maybe not as knowingly, but it could be a consequence of a doctor who sees a kid failing in overcrowded classes with 42 other kids and the frustrated parents asking what they can do. The doctor says, ‘Maybe it’s A.D.H.D., let’s give this a try.’ ”

As a parent, I can see how doctors decide to ignore broader societal issues to do what they think is right for an individual student.  But as a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer who defends juveniles accused of committing crimes, I know that the New York Times story misses an important aspect of prescribing Adderall to more students.  Under federal law, Adderall is a Class II controlled substance; same as cocaine.  It is a crime to use Adderall for non-therapeutic reasons.  When doctors give more students Adderall, they also increase the chances that their patients will share the drugs with friends and classmates who have not received a prescription.  This may not sound like a big deal, but it is.

Many states, including California, are increasingly cracking down on students who possess or distribute prescription drugs such as Adderall.  That is one reason why as matter of social matter, it’s not sensible both to encourage doctors to hand out Adderall and then criminalize the unauthorized use of Adderall by juveniles.   If, as a society we make the decision not to invest adequately in our schools, let’s not make the situation worse by criminalizing the possession of small amounts of Adderall by kids.

Unfortunately, more and more juveniles are being ensnared by the criminal justice system in connection with prescription drugs.  That’s why it’s critical to work with lawyers who are experienced in defending juveniles in criminal matters.

Adderall Abuse By Academically Ambitious Juveniles

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

The New York Times recently published a lengthy advertisement for the amphetamine, Adderall.  Technically, it wasn’t supposed to be a commercial.  It was a feature story entitled, “Risky Rise of the Good Grade Pill.”  But the manufacturer of Adderall would be hard pressed to create a more effective marketing campaign aimed at high school and college students than the Times‘ article.  The phrase “good grade pill” pretty much says it all.  If you take Adderall, you will get better grades and all the benefits that come from better grades–admission to better colleges, improved job prospects, and happier parents.

It’s a seductive message, especially for teenagers who attend highly competitive academic institutions.  To be fair, the Times does a good job of painting a picture of the relaxed culture that surrounds the use of Adderall at highly regarded private and public schools throughout the country.

Here’s what I mean by relaxed.  The article correctly points out that Adderall is a controlled substance and that it is illegal to provide it for a non-perscription use.

The D.E.A. lists prescription stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse (amphetamines) and Ritalin and Focalin (methylphenidates) as Class 2 controlled substances — the same as cocaine and morphine — because they rank among the most addictive substances that have a medical use. (By comparison, the long-abused anti-anxiety drug Valium is in the lower Class 4.) So they carry high legal risks, too, as few teenagers appreciate that merely giving a friend an Adderall or Vyvanse pill is the same as selling it and can be prosecuted as a felony.

No one who is interviewed in the story, however, seems remotely concerned that they will be arrested for selling Adderral, or that law enforcement might knock on their door asking them about their connection to the drug.  This is true of the students who sell Adderall to their classmates, the ones who lie to mental health professionals so that they can get a prescription, or the mental health professionals themselves.  The article doesn’t explicitly say so, but you can tell than none of these folks have been called down to the police station or been approached by a DEA agent.

As a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles who represents juveniles, let me clear.  The last thing for which I am advocating is an increased law enforcement presence in our schools.  I am not suggesting that it would be a good thing for us to ruin the lives of academically ambitious high school juniors by giving them a criminal record.  We already have far too much of that going in our schools.  Our schools are becoming a pipeline to prison, and often the first offense is an infraction that is much more minor than posessing a Class 2 controlled substance.

What accounts for the relaxed manner in which the students who take Adderall discuss what they and their classmates do? Perhaps they know that their ritzy and respected schools aren’t likely to be raided by the police.  Perhaps the students feel that their well-t0-do and politically connected parents can bail them out of (literally and figuratively) any mess they get themselves into.   Whatever the case, it is hard to read the New York Times’ story without concluding that: (1) taking Adderall will help you focus, thereby improving your grades; and (2) law enforcement seems to be rather forgiving, at least where affluent public and private schools are concerned.

As a parent, my concern is that the New York Times just increased the number of high school and college students who will try Adderall.  As a lawyer, I predict that some law enforcent agencies will crack down even more severely on teens who misuse prescription drugs.  That crack down, however, may not happen at the schools that were mentioned in the New York Times article.