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ADHD, Ritalin

Drugging Children, A Cruel Sign of The Times

 By Dr. Gifford Jones  Thursday, October 7, 2010

Would I allow Ritalin or other similar drugs to be prescribed to my children because they fidgeted, squirmed in their seat or were inattentive? Hell would freeze over a thousand times before I’d submit to such idiocy. But today an estimated five million Canadian and U.S. children are prescribed medication for this condition.

This year, a committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that a “black box” warning should be placed on ADHD medications, warning about heart attack and other risks. It’s the strongest warning possible before a drug is removed from the market. A second advisory panel disagreed so no decision has been reached.

Why the need for a black box warning? It depends on who is giving the opinion. For instance, a report from the Mayo Clinic agrees that ADHD medications can cause heart attack, stroke, hypertension, heart palpitations, an irregular heart beat, psychosis, mania, aggressive behaviour and hallucinations. Some deaths have also been linked to these drugs. This should scare the hell out of any parent. But Mayo claims the risks are small and benefits outweigh these potential problems.

Others, such as Dr. Peter R. Breggin, a renowned researcher in this field, says doctors have become “oblivious to the fact these drugs cause manic and schizophrenic-like disorders.” He cites a Canadian study in which a staggering nine per cent of children on this medication developed psychotic symptoms.

He argues that when children on ADHD medication become paranoid and have delusions they’re diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Rather than working them off the drug they are prescribed more drugs to treat these problems.

Dr. Colleen Clements, a psychiatrist at the University of Rochester, in Rochester, N.Y., writes in The Medical Post that ADHD is a disease with “dubious scientific merit”. She worries that “long term psychoactive medication does not allow the developmental process to continue normally and children may be causally put in this illness category with the implied degrading of their normality and worth.”

Adding to these concerns, Dr Nadine Lambert, a developmental psychiatrist at the University of California, reports that children on Ritalin are 3X more likely to develop a taste for cocaine.

So what should parents do when either their doctor or school suggests this medication?

I’d bet if these drugs had been available years ago they would not have been required in the one-room schoolhouse. I’d also bet there was more discipline in those days when teachers were treated with more respect by parents and children.

As a teenager I had a habit of tapping my pencil on my desk. One day my teacher tossed me down the aisle, then across the room, and finally out the door. I never tapped my pencil again! Nor did I complain I had “rights”. Or mention it to my parents. No one suggested Ritalin or medication. And I easily survived this encounter, and in fact the teacher became one of my favourites.

Remember that just because drugs are prescribed does not make them safe. And shouldn’t we ask why 90 per cent of ADHD drugs manufactured in the world are used in Canada and the U.S? Isn’t it strange that the rest of the world can manage children in the classroom without drugging them.

We should question how and why doctors make the diagnosis of ADHD. There’s no test to do so. He may say the child fidgets. Or maybe taps his pen on the desk! But these annoyances are all a matter of degree, so where do you draw the line and start to drug a child?

Dr Breggin says that, “Many facts make a child behave in this manner such as a spirited nature that defies conformity, inconsistent discipline, boredom, oversized classrooms, overstressed teachers, anxiety due to abuse or home problems”.

Dr. Laurence Diller, author of the book, “Running on Ritalin” writes, “We prefer to locate our children’s problems in their brain rather than in their lives.”

Surely it makes more sense to treat the cause, rather than expose children to powerful drugs with drastic side effects. Hell should freeze over before we allow this to happen.

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones

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