In America, medication is becoming almost as much a staple of childhood as Disney and McDonald’s. Kids pack their pills for school or college along with their lunch money. Some are taking drugs for depression and anxiety, others for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The right drugs at the right time can save young people from profound distress and enable them to concentrate in class. But some adolescents, critics say, are given medication to mask the ordinary emotional turmoil of growing up; there is a risk that they will never learn to live without it.
“In the middle-class, educated group in New York, you probably are seeing kids who are just under more academic pressure,” she says. “Parents will begin to look at psychiatric diagnosis and treatment with drugs as one option for making children perform better. You have parents saying, ‘My child must be on Ritalin because all the other children in the class are.’”