- "Why don't you write about something that is ruining
my generation?" My son asked. I pondered the plethora of
- "Which thing?"
- "Pharmaceuticals", he replied.
- I hardly knew where to begin. As a retired Caseworker,
I had had first hand experience with the drugging of our young people.
The array of prescribed pharmaceuticals would fill up a medicine chest
no less an essay. I decided to begin with one popularly prescribed pill,
- My mind drifted back to 1995 when I first began working
for Child Protective Services. I had been called to investigate a case
of child neglect. The investigation always commenced with a visit to the school
to question the child. I called the school and arranged
to meet the child in the nurses office.
- When I arrived at the Nurse's office I noticed a long
line of children.
- I asked, "Why are these children lined up?"
- "They are here for their Ritalin", She
replied nonchalantly. They have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD
(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The nurse's demeanor was the
antithesis of what I was feeling.
- When did ADD and ADHD reach epidemic proportions? Where
had this "problem" been when I was teaching in the New York City
School System? Where had this "problem" been when I was attending
school? I could not believe my eyes and could only suspect
that some great hoax was being perpetrated on our young people.
- Ritalin is methylphenidate, a central nervous system
stimulant. Paradoxically, it purportedly quiets down the hyperactive child
and makes him manageable. And yet, there are many people who
question whether or not Ritalin truly works and whether or not there are
long term consequences of putting a child on, what amounts to, Speed. The
consensus is that about 80% of the children who receive the drug experience
a quieting effect. I wondered if that was true. http://www.omnipotentchild.com/chfive.html
- I began to research some of the available studies. Many
of them put an entirely different spin on this supposedly "harmless"
- Granger et al, from the Department of Psychology of the
University of California at Los Angeles report a study in which they enlisted
ninety-six undergraduate college students to view and make judgments about
videotaped play sessions. These were videos of two different ADHD boys
playing an interaction game with three normal peers. One of the target
boys was on Ritalin and one wasn't. (See Grander, DA, et al., Social Impressions
of Methylphenidate Effects on Hyperactive Children's Peer Interactions,"
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 21: 67-81.)
- The observations of these undergraduates were evaluated
and more negative than positive behaviors were detected. The interesting
thing is that the "negative behaviors" were strikingly different.
- The negative ratings for the placebo child (the one not
getting Ritalin) reported three behaviors:
- The negative ratings for the Ritalin child also reported
- social inhibition
- submissive behavior.
- The question arises: When a child is reported to be better
on Ritalin does "better" mean more compliant, less aggressive,
and less disruptive?
- For a teacher trying to control a room full of students,
compliance and passivity are considered "desirable" qualities.
However, are these the qualities we want to foster in our children? And
what happens when these children grow into adulthood? Does Ritalin
create critical thinkers and inventive contributors? Or, does Ritalin start
our youngsters on the path to drug dependency?
- In another study, three covert antisocial behaviors were
measured: stealing, destroying property, and cheating. Ritalin was found
to reduce the incidence of the first two, but it increased the incidence
of cheating. The authors speculate that this is because Ritalin enhances
task involvement. (See Hinshaw, SP, Heller, T, and McHale, JP, "Covert
Antisocial Behaviour in ADHD," Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology
April 1992 (60/2): 274-81.)
- At the end of the day, Ritalin may be have a calming
affect, but it may also involve changes you or I would hardly label
- Many parents go along with the recommendation of the
school and doctors. They do not question whether this drug will have any
side effects or long term consequences. According to the head of psychiatry
at the Vancouver Children's Hospital, Ritalin is not even as dangerous
as aspirin. To me, this merely calls into question the safety of aspirin. (See
the report in the Vancouver/Lower Mainland area newspaper the Tri-City
News, 26 August 1990.)
- Further investigation reveals that the above is a gross
understatement. The fact is that Ritalin has many known side effects. Some
of them may be rare but others are quite common. Some of them are extremely
serious. How many psychiatrists or school personnel tell parents of the
possible consequences of the mummifying of their kiddies?
- In a publication called Methylphenidate (A Background
Paper) published in 1995,and available through the DEA, a few of the side
effects were listed. They included palpitation, tachcardia, increased blood
pressure, insomnia, psychosis, dizziness, headache irritability, Gilles
de la Tourette's disease, tics, nausea, anorexia, dry mouth, weight loss,
and growth delay.
- Reports of psychotic reactions are rare but have occurred.
Leukopenia, caused by poisoning of the bone marrow, is equally rare. Deaths
from Ritalin have been reported as a result of teen-agers crushing Ritalin
pills and injecting them intravenously. As for whether this drug is addictive, I
have heard they some adolescents have now taken to snorting Ritalin.
- My son has a friend who was put on Ritalin as a child.
And now, at 23, he is in a constant struggle with pill and drug addiction. Another
friend of mine has a daughter who was given Ritalin in Junior High. She
has been in and out of rehabs in her 20's. Is this
merely a coincidence? I seriously doubt it. Giving kids Ritalin to improve
their behavior may help to make them more docile, but at the same time,
it teaches them to look to drugs for the solution to life's problems. In
addition, it may habituate them and make them dependent.
- And now for the million dollar question.
Are there really such conditions as ADD and ADHD and can they be "fixed"
with a "pharmie"?
- It seems to me that we have lost sight of what childhood
is about. It seems to me that we have lost sight of what teaching is all
about. Is it really about having a classroom of 30 submissive students
sitting silently? Is it about teachers who are forced to pressure their
children to get good grades on standardized tests? Is there any excitement
and love of learning left?
- I seriously doubt whether there are any miracle
drugs for squirming and boredom. And one thing I will say for certain,
"Speed" is not the answer. It is not a life enhancer, it
is a life reducer. It robs the child of his vitality and a great
- Parents have also been lied to. They've been told
that children have a neurobiological disorder. They've been told their
children have biochemical imbalances and genetic defects. On what basis?
Is it because they fit into a checklist of attention deficit disorder,
which is just a list of behaviors that teachers would like to see stopped
in a classroom? Because, my friends, at the end of the day, that's all
it really is.
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