"Why don't you write about something that is ruining my generation?"
My son asked. I pondered the plethora of possibilities.
"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, Ritalin.
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
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" pharmaceutical.
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 three behaviors:
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 as improvements.
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
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 deal more.
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
Read from Looking Glass News
as prescriptions of Ritalin to children reach a record high
on ADHD drugs: A dangerous path to addiction
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