On Ritalin, In Need of A Third Opinion 

On Ritalin, In Need of A Third Opinion 
Posted by FoM on April 08, 2001 at 21:34:08 PT
By Megan Rosenfeld, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
Two television documentaries deal this week with a cause of current celebrity -- attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and the prescribing of stimulants for children to control it. "Frontline" (Channel 26, tomorrow at 10 p.m.) has had its film in the works for a year and so cannot be accused too seriously of flavor-of-the-week-itis. A&E's "Investigative Reports" (tonight at 10) is definitely the tabloid version of the two and is notable for its general cheesiness.
Both programs use a tried-and-true format -- follow several families and tell the story through them, interspersed with experts and statistics. But this largely anecdotal technique, while easy viewing, cannot be used to tackle fundamental questions very satisfactorily -- like who discovered ADHD (and its brother, attention-deficit disorder), and why has the number of children diagnosed with it become a significant chunk of the school-age population in the last decade -- "Frontline" estimates the number at 6 million, A&E 4 million. How are these figures arrived at? What happens once these kids reach adulthood? In some ways, the families chosen to illustrate the dilemmas involved raise more questions than they answer, and whatever the problems of using the stimulants, none of the anti-drug parents have come up with very impressive alternatives.A&E, through its breathless producer and narrator Bill Kurtis, takes a clearly partisan position against medication while giving only perfunctory attention to the possibility that we may be talking about a real problem here. Kurtis gives a lot of airtime to psychiatrist Peter Breggin, one of the leading alarm-sounders on the subject, who has developed a knack for pithy sound bites. Stimulants like Ritalin, he says, "are chemically similar to cocaine," and "what they do is subdue the brain so the child will sit down and shut up."Michael Moser is Exhibit A for Breggin's gallery of horror stories. With symptoms of inattention, fidgeting, inability to focus and troublemaking, Michael was given drugs and a diagnosis based on a teacher's answers to a questionnaire. When, after a year, he started eating paper and pencils, lost his appetite and couldn't sleep, he was prescribed the stimulant Dexedrine and Paxil, an antidepressant that had not been approved for children. On that combination, Michael became violent and ran away, and when his parents took him off all the drugs, he was kicked out of school and his parents threatened with medical neglect charges by the child protective services agency in their town. They were cleared and his mother is now home-schooling him, but it's not clear his symptoms have gone away. But Michael seems as much a symbol of the dangers of incompetent doctors and imperfect systems as of the problems of treating and diagnosing ADHD. People such as Breggin do not believe there is such a disorder; they see it as a case of "boys will be boys" -- that is, energetic, rambunctious and rude -- not a brain disorder.The program shows one family using a non-drug approach, behavior modification therapy that may have success. It would be more encouraging to parents considering this approach, however, if Kurtis had shown us a case in which this method has actually worked, because it requires the kind of intensive parental participation that some working fathers and mothers might find very difficult to deliver.It is curious that the child who has benefited from taking Ritalin in both films is a girl. On A&E it's Allison, who by third grade could not complete school assignments, and was "charming but scattered." She was becoming isolated socially and falling further behind every week. After she was prescribed Ritalin by a thoughtful, thorough pediatrician, her handwriting improved immediately from illegible to great, and she began to keep up in class. She will never be a top student, her mother says, but she'll do fine.Kurtis paints the sociological and environmental backdrop to this issue in glibly dismal terms that can only depress any parent watching. Crowded classrooms, burned-out teachers, overscheduled children, stressed-out parents, more homework -- yeesh, he makes life for everyone sound pretty hopeless. He doesn't mention the constant interruption of commercials everywhere, but that would have been cutting into his income, no doubt. "Frontline" traces the increase in cases to the early 1990s, when, as the result of lawsuits, ADHD was formally recognized as a disability, meaning that children with a doctor's diagnosis could take more time on tests and that public school systems had to pay for tutoring for them and give them less homework. This sounds interesting, but it doesn't explain why so many kids exhibit the symptoms, unless you buy into the theory that the whole thing is a conspiracy by lazy teachers trying to get rid of noisy behavior problems rather than deal with them. (If you do believe that, a visit to any elementary school classroom would show you the conspiracy has failed.) There has to be more to it than naming a syndrome. Six million kids is too high a number, and many have no doubt been misdiagnosed and wrongfully medicated, but something is going on here. "Frontline" would have really added to the debate if it had spent more time on why modern American life has produced so many hyper children. But producers Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith are far more balanced and comprehensive than Kurtis. They do not assume there is a right or wrong here. They rightly point out (as does Kurtis, briefly) that much of the opposition to medication comes from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, founded by the anti-psychiatry Church of Scientology. Also, they have time to look at four families rather than Kurtis's three, which gives a bigger range of problems and solutions. One is that of a 4-year-old, Nicolas, who is clearly banging off the walls. His parents have chosen not to medicate him; instead the father quit his job and stays home to give him and their younger child more attention. Noelle, 12, a gifted gymnast who was flunking school and getting suspended for fighting, saw her symptoms improve with medication and now makes A's and B's. Alex, also 12, has a host of problems -- he's overweight, depressed, failing in school and lonely. Antidepressants made him suicidal, but Adderall, one of the newer ADD medications, has helped. Robin, now 16, poses a case in which nothing has worked, and his family has basically cracked apart under the stress. No one in either program appears to think that taking a pill makes all your problems go away. But neither does not taking a pill, and there's clearly a lot of work to be done before this story is over. Source: Washington Post (DC)Author: Megan Rosenfeld, Washington Post Staff WriterPublished: Monday, April 9, 2001; Page C01 Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post CompanyContact: letters washpost.comWebsite: Medicating Kids - Preview Articles - Ritalin
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Comment #10 posted by dddd on April 11, 2001 at 09:54:06 PT
FreedomFighter....Greetings!,,,I am amazed to hear that the army will not acceptpeople who have used Ritalin!.....Most peculiar.What does this say about Ritalin?Does the government know something we dont?....Of course.......dddd
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Comment #9 posted by freedom fighter on April 11, 2001 at 09:23:02 PT
My son is an adhd kid or was
I read somewhere that there is a new book out on this subject. 6 different types or so.. I have not brought that book. My son had to take ritalin when he was young. From what I know and have seen the effects. Since ritalin is another word for speed, it cause a person with adhd to calm down. But with cannabis the effect is opposite of the ritalin.My son stopped taking ritalin when he turned 13. He does felt that it did help him out but I do have my own views on this subject. I do feel he was forced to do by the school officials. I was told by someone here on this site that one with adhd can try to drink some black coffee. In old days they give coffee to hyperactive children and they would be calm..My main problem with my son is when I told him that the United States Army will not accept him because of his use of ritalin when he was young. I find it rather strange that US government would sanction the ritalin use in children and at the same time make a rule not letting any of those children serve in military field. My son got really pissed about that. Oh well! 
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Comment #8 posted by DontArrestMe on April 09, 2001 at 18:54:55 PT
I understand what you are saying rambler. First, I am not a medical expert. All of what I said is garnished from doctors and the National ADD Association homepage ( I think that because teachers would like to have all annoying students on ritalin perpetuates the myth that bad parenting causes add. Bad parenting may cause misbehavior which may be answered with ADD medicines. And if marijuana helps anyone with add than I am all for it. Unfortunately, it only makes my inattention symptoms worse so I don't partake of it much during school. I could probably see it helping the hyperactive symptoms though.
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Comment #7 posted by Jeaneous on April 09, 2001 at 18:40:58 PT:
I hear ya
Rambler,I hear what you are saying very loud and clear. I'm sure people with problems that were helped by medication don't quite understand our skepticisim(?) regarding Ritalin and the other drugs.The point being that it isn't just the children that actually have a disorder that are being prescribed these medications.It's amazing, but teachers will recommend Ritalin like it's no big deal, just a couple of pills a day. Makes your child a zombie when they truely don't require the medication, but sure makes the teachers jobs easier.And of course we can't forget the pharmacutical companies that are making billions on the amounts of Ritalin, Prozac, Paxil and many other drugs being prescribed, that have not been tested for childrens use.Yet bring up marijuana and ooooooo..... druggies..... I see what you mean rambler... makes me a bit crazy too.
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Comment #6 posted by Rambler on April 09, 2001 at 14:00:20 PT
Easy there,,,I wont arrest you
You are correct DontArrestMe,My medical background is extremely questionable,and insufficient. It was not my intention to trivialize any "disorder" that afflicts people.I assume that you do have some sort of relevant background in the medicinal arts.My background is somewhat limited,and I hope you were not offended by mysomewhat arrogant demeanor. What I was attempting to point out,(my writing skills are also lacking in relevant backgrounds, obviously),is the egregious chasmbetween Marijuana being illegal,and ritalin being handed out like tic-tacs to children.If you were helped by Ritalin,I'm glad.It's a shame that you were denied the option ofusing 100 percent natural Marijuana to treat your disorder.I appreciate your response to my ramblings,and I hope you feel good.Sincerely      Rambler
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Comment #5 posted by DontArrestMe on April 09, 2001 at 13:35:14 PT
Hold on
Rambler, your statements are totally unfounded and I doubt you have a relevant professional background to support them. ADHD will be controversial for some time as it was only recognized as a psychological disorder a few years ago. I imagine when depression was first recognized, many people would say it is all in your mind. That just isn't the case. ADHD is also controversial because the drugs used to treat it are abusable. Of course the comparison of ritalin to cocaine is like comparing codeine to heroin. I know many kids including myself with ADD who could not succeed in high school and college without the help or stimulants. Also, it is a myth that bad parenting causes add. That is why one of the diagnostic criteria is that some symptoms must be present during childhood. Because it doesn't just appear. You are born and you either have it or don't have it. Behavioral intervention is a helpful adjunct to ADD drugs but the lack of it doesn't cause ADHD. Get your facts straight.
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Comment #4 posted by Rambler on April 09, 2001 at 02:28:50 PT
imasmoker.Like I tried to say,there is definatly a valid disorder andafflictions,that can be helped with drugs.  The main point I wanted to make,is how legal drugs are passed out to kids as if they were Milk Duds,or Good 'n Plenty,with a blind eye toward the nasty little withdrawalthings like you went thru,and the same government who allows thecareless drugging of kids,is the same government that claims to beprotecting 'the Children',with the continued absurd drug laws,and fake dangers of Marijuana.
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Comment #3 posted by imasmoker on April 09, 2001 at 01:51:25 PT:
rambler, while you do have some valid points, i think you need to take a broader view of the problem you are facing b4 you dismiss it so easily. i was diagnosed for ADHD when i was 12 and found it very difficult to concentrate in class. the smallest noise or the unexpected movement drew my attention away from the teacher almost immediately. ADHD is a very serious problem, and i hope you can agree that is it one that needs our attention. i DO, however, agree with you that Ritalin is nothing more than a government approved dope. When i was prescribed Ritalin, i was a complete wreck. i could barely stay awake, and if i did stay awake, i wasn't coherent enough to respond. my grades fell, faster than they did b4 i got the medicine i might add, and soon even the teachers began to worry. When i was finally taken off Ritalin, they decided to take me off cold turkey and that caused me to become suicidal. i tell you, Ritalin is addictive. in the end, all worked out, cause i finally found something that works. 5 cigarettes- menthol preferrably- seems to be just the ticket to keeping me in control. while i don't think underage ppl should smoke cigarettes, i do think that they could get the same benefits from nicotine gum. after all, isn't that the whole reason we smoke? write me and let me know at the adress posted above.
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on April 09, 2001 at 00:40:09 PT
Fourth Opinion
Couldnt have said it better myself Rambler,,,I'm kinda depressedthough,,,,know where I can get any Ritalin
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Comment #1 posted by Rambler on April 09, 2001 at 00:33:40 PT
Drug Corporate Greed Profit Disorder
DCGPD is ravenging our sanityADHD,,and a myriad of other conjured up "disorders",aremostly sheer fabrications from your kind friends at thecorporate pharmaceutical conglomerates.I am not saying that there are not certain disorders thatcan benifit from mind altering drugs,but the number of kidsneeding such medications is infinitesmal.In the midst of a "war on drugs",we have an industry that hasconjured up a "disorder",to custom fit the product they sell.Thesymptoms are loosely defined,the research is questionable at best.but the legal drugs are approved for treating nebulous behavioralproblems,mainly because everything that kids go through growingup is now called a "disorder".On one side,we have the federal government waging a ridiculous police statewar on drugs that have been labeled illegal,,and on the other side,wehave a government that allows,and approves of mind altering snakeoil pills,to treat fabicated "disorders",that are being given to any childwho's parents can afford to take them to some yuppie behavioral specialist,who just returned from a vacation in the Bahamas,courtesy of Glaxo-Welcomb,PfizerSquibb.I think most everyone goes through bad times,and emotional abnormalitieswhen they are growing up.I pity the kids who have rich,detatched parents,who try to get a pill to cover for their inattention and neglect. It's like thisnowdays,that people are convinced that there is a pill to solve any problem,the same way an aspirin helps a headache.So when the neglected kid getsout of hand,or starts acting strangely,then of course,it's time to go to thedoctor and get a pill for the kid.,,After all,"nothings too good for my kid,it'stoo bad I cant spend any time with him/her". As I was growing up,I had all the signs of what would now be "diagnosed",assome sort of "disorder".I'm glad my parents were good.I think the most common problems kids have is due to LPD,,(Lousy Parenting Disorder).There'sno drug for this condition either,but I'll bet if you made an appointment withthe right doctor,they could fix you right up with something to make youfeel better.Doctors have a strange position in that their main job is to healyou,but they are also supposed to make you feel better.If there is no curefor your malady,then all they can do is try and make you feel better,or ifthere is a cure,you want to feel better while you recover.Legal drug cartels/companies,are a tragic combination of great good,andsevere evil, all blended into a hugely profitable wall street monstrosity,thatmany a mutual fund,and portfolio is symbioticly related with.  For ages,people have grown up just fine without all this crap,,I almostfreak out,when I compare Marijuana prohibition, to the Paxil/Ritalin juvenilegoldmining that the legal drug kingpins shamelessly get away with.This is so obviously bizarre that it doesnt seem as if it could really be,,,,butit is.   Toto.....TOTO!.....Wake Up!.....We're not in Kansas anymore
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