Chad Eschweiler looks back with relief at his resistance to calls from teachers and others to medicate his son for ADHD. Fifteen years ago, the boy was prone to outbursts in class; he'd stand up from his desk and dance to the music in his head. Fast forward to today, and the 22-year-old is studying at the University of Kentucky and starring in its production of Phantom of the Opera.
Eschweiler wonders if the path from misfit to stardom would have been different if he had listened to those saying his son probably needed stimulant medication. He is glad he'll never have to know the answer. Eschweiler provided his son with extensive tutoring to improve his learning in grade school, but never pursued medication or even a diagnosis.
"It didn’t quite match for him because he could focus and stay on task," said Eschweiler, 59, of Golden Valley. "It's just that he was very musical."
Eschweiler isn't anti-medication: "Some people should have those drugs, and it’s a real blessing to have them. But there are others who probably shouldn’t have them." He does believe they have been overprescribed to children, though, and he was thrilled earlier this year to read a Star Tribune story on a new state consult program that will educate doctors and cut inappropriate prescriptions to kids.
He was so thrilled that he sent a copy of the article to Steven Plog, a national speaker based in Las Vegas who lectures on the virtues ADHD can have for some people. Eschweiler had heard him speak 15 years earlier and marveled at the hope he gave to children with ADHD. He showed them that "they weren’t consigned to the trash heap," Eschweiler said.
Plog, in turn, was so excited by Minnesota's efforts to curb inappropriate prescriptions that he decided to hit the lecture trail again and arrange a program that highlights the state's new consult service. The "Why I Love My ADD" event, designed for teachers, parents and their children, will take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Mall of America Ramada. Click here or call 763-746-6937 to get more information and register. Teachers and health care professionals can receive educational credits for attending. Speakers will include a doctor who helps lead the state's psychiatric consult service, and legislators who backed the bill that created it.
Plog said his goal is to give kids confidence, in part by showing them all of the successful adults who dealt with hyperactivity and even used it to their advantage, and to discourage gut-instinct prescriptions.
"I'm not against drugs. I'm against unnecessary drugs. Big difference," he said. "My motto is 'lab test not best guess.' Psychiatrists are going to sit down and say, 'so it look likes you can't sit still, so it looks like you have ADHD, so it looks like you need Ritalin'? NO! If you're hyper. It just means you're hyper. It doesn't mean you are ADD" necessarily.
The consult service basically requires doctors to call a hotline and discuss with a psychiatrist whether it is safe and appropriate to prescribe stimulants, antipsychotics and other psychotropic drugs to children based on their symptoms and medical histories. A spokeswoman from the Minnesota Department of Human Services said it is too soon to have any data or information on whether the system is working as planned.
Lawmakers and state health officials expect, among other things, a slowing of the dramatic increase in state Medicaid spending on psychotropic medication for children. A Star Tribune series last year focused on this issue and on the overdiagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder.
More information on Plog's upcoming event can be obtained by calling 763-746-6937