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In this article, I examine children's reported experiences with stimulant drug treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in light of bioethical arguments about the potential threats of psychotropic drugs to authenticity and moral agency. Drawing on a study that involved over 150 families in the USA and the UK, I show that children are able to report threats to authenticity, but that the majority of children are not concerned with such threats. On balance, children report that stimulants improve their capacity for moral agency, and they associate this capacity with an ability to meet normative expectations. I argue that although under certain conditions stimulant drug treatment may increase the risk of a threat to authenticity, there are ways to minimise this risk and to maximise the benefits of stimulant drug treatment. Medical professionals in particular should help children to flourish with stimulant drug treatments, in good and in bad conditions.

Original publication




Journal article


J Med Ethics

Publication Date





359 - 366


Children, Neuroethics, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology, Adolescent, Adolescent Behavior, Amphetamines, Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, Central Nervous System Stimulants, Child, Child Behavior, Choice Behavior, Decision Making, Drug Prescriptions, Female, Humans, Interview, Psychological, Male, Methylphenidate, Morals, Personal Autonomy, United Kingdom, United States