Published Friday, December 1, 2000 12:00:00 AM
Reprinted from DailyBulletin.com.
As our society moves into the 21st century it has become apparent
the American medical community's unique legacy to the science of childdevelopment and child rearing is a potent psychotropic drug.
Ritalin is the drug of choice for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder and every year more of our children are taking it. No other
comes close to ours in Ritalin consumption.
In February of this year an article in The Journal of the American
Medical Association documented that in one Midwestern community 1.4
of the preschoolers between the ages of 2 and 4 were prescribed Ritalin.
"Shocked," "concerned" and "surprised" were just some of the responses
the American medical community. However, it is insincere for anyone in
American medical community to be surprised at the current situation. In
fact, while this statistic elicits concern in many of us it does not
meet the expectations of some of the Ritalin "experts" who still talk
ADHD being underdiagnosed.
While ADHD might be one of the most intensively studied pediatric
conditions, we still have no proof of any underlying neurobiological
deficit. If the parent wants a prescription, the parent will get a
prescription; it's as simple as that. If you want proof, read the August
issue of The Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry. Scientists found that in one community approximately 50
of the children who were receiving Ritalin did not meet the standard
diagnostic criteria for ADHD.
Scientists can argue all day about the cold hard data collected by
statisticians but it also helps to put a name and a face to the numbers.
every child who I could hold up as an example documenting Ritalin abuse,
pro-Ritalin advocates would simply say that I have found an isolated
anecdote that means nothing. So let's take the case study of a child who
Pro-Ritalin advocates feel should be medicated. It tells us volumes
why we have an epidemic of Ritalin use in this country.
"Sarah, 14, chooses to sit in the back of the classroom and much
the time she's doodling in her notebook or staring out of the window.
seldom completes assignments and often forgets to bring the right books
class. Her desk is a mess and she generally can't find what she's
for. Then she gets weepy and says that nobody understands her."
Sarah's story is on the web site of the Department of Psychiatry
New York University. According to the experts at NYU her diagnosis is
and the treatment of choice for her is Ritalin. This little girl is
out, "Please understand me!" and the American medical community's
is, "Medicate her."
Is Ritalin quick, easy and cheap? Yes. Will it work? Probably, if
work you mean make her easier to control. But the real question is, will
You be the judge - but first put yourself in her shoes. A girl
out for help who ends up with a prescription for a mood-altering drug
much more about how as adults we treat children then it says about
"neurobiological deficits" in our children.
The medication of Sarah and millions of other children is an
experiment run amok. The National Institute of Mental Health is planning
spend $5 million to investigate the safety of these drugs in children as
young as 3. What responsible parent, doctor or government is going to
volunteer a 3-year-old child for this experiment? Probably not the
they are talking about banning these drugs for their children under 5
If you think you have ADHD you can take a test at
http://www.med.nyu.edu/Psych/public.html . The test has twelve questions which
require a simple yes or no. Examples of the questions include, "Is it
for you to get organized?" or "Do you have a hard time starting tasks or
projects?" If you answer yes to a single question you are advised,
the above answer you may be experiencing symptoms that may be a part of
ADHD." As you scroll down the page you are told, "The test is designed
give a preliminary idea about the presence of ADHD symptoms that
the need for an evaluation be a psychiatrist."
After all the money and time spent studying this so-called
this the best the experts can do? A test that anyone living and working
the modern world would certainly fail.
The real question here is, "Does
test sound like good marketing or good science?" To be very blunt: The
is a silly gimmick which might be good for business, but it has nothing
do with science.
The debate about the use of Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs
children urgently needs voices from other fields. The medical
whose voices are often heard when the topic of genetically altered
is discussed, are somehow silent when the topic of normalizing children
psychotropic drugs is discussed. They are ignoring this debate at their
American physicians prescribe 90 percent of the Ritalin produced
worldwide, and the experts defend these prescriptions in the name of
"science." Yet it is hard to take these same experts seriously when they
give us a test like the one described above. For too long the American
medical community has listened to a small group of "experts" who believe
that upwards of 3 percent, 5 percent or even 10 percent of our children
If the American medical community wants to reverse this trend it
to stop asking, "What is wrong with our children?" Instead it needs to
in the mirror and ask, "How have we come to believe that it is
medicate children so that they can make it through the school day?"
The question is a matter of ethics and not science.
- Jonathan Leo is associate professor of anatomy at Western
of Health Sciences in Pomona.