Resisting Ritalin

Some parents complain they’re being pressured to put their children on medications to control Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and “social anxiety disorder,” reports the Christian Science Monitor.

When Patricia Weathers’s son Michael had problems in his first-grade class, a school psychologist told the New York mother he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and needed to be medicated with stimulants. If not, he would be sent to a special education facility near his Millbrook, N.Y., school.

The mother agreed to medication, but later decided the side-effects were making her son psychotic. When she stopped medicating, school officals referred the case to Child Protective Services. The mother was charged wtih child abuse, though charges were dropped eventually. Her site,, promotes Parents for Label and Drug Free Education.

The Monitor reports:

To date, according to activists who track the issue, seven states have laws prohibiting school personnel from recommending psychotropic drugs for children. Over the past few years, 46 bills in 28 states have either passed or are awaiting action.

Currently, one federal bill, the Child Safety Medication Act, prohibits schools from making medication a requirement of attendance and calls on the Government Accounting Office to track how often schools pressure parents to seek ADHD diagnoses. It passed the House in 2003 but is currently stalled in the Senate.

The diagnosis of ADHD has skyrocketed from 150,000 children in 1970 to 6 million in 2000, representing more than 12 percent of students. Surely, not all these kids have a problem that requires medication. But some do. And if they’re not medicated, they may disrupt their classrooms, taking far more than their share of the teacher’s time and energy and making it hard for classmates to learn.

According to a National Institute of Mental Health study: “consistent use of stimulants mildly suppresses children’s growth at an average rate of about an inch over the course of two years, in addition to weight loss in some children.” On the other hand, medications work better than behavioral treatment to control symptoms.

I think parents should be able to refuse medication. But some kids may have to attend special ed classes or schools if their symptoms remain out of control.

Update: Here’s a shrink who thinks George W. Bush has ADHD. Also that he’s a sadistic, paranoid megalomaniac.

If a guy’s president of the United States, how can you tell paranoia from common sense? I mean, people really are out to get him. Megalomania too. He is powerful.

About Joanne


  1. Jetstorm says:

    The problem has always been, and will always be, settling on the fine line between a truly sick child and a child who is just rambunctious and active. It takes involved, caring, observant parents and involved, caring, observant teachers to see and know the difference. Unfortunately, not all parents and teachers are like that, and I’m disturbed that Ritalin and mind-altering drugs are being seen as the quick fix to make Lil’ Johnny sit down and be quiet instead of what they should be; the absolute last resort, when every other attempt to control or alter the child’s behavior has failed. And if school officials are starting to use CPS as attack dogs against parents who refuse to medicate their children, then something is seriously wrong.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    We must give back control of classroom behavior to the teacher and make administrators earn their big bucks by finding ways to educate children who do not fit within a standard classroom environment.
    Perhaps steal a march from biker clubs and have 1%er classes where that disruptive 1% have an opportunity to learn in their prefered environment.
    Let kids learn.

  3. I work each summer as a camp counselor. Last year, in my group of nine kids, there were four boys between the ages of 11 and 14. Every single one of them was taking medication for ADD or ADHD….

  4. My 17 year old son and I both have ADD. I have fabulous coping skills, he has Adderall. My father had a two pack a day habit, which was cheaper than my son’s meds but killed him at 65. There’s always a trade-off, somewhere. But, the pill doesn’t cure everything, and kids still need to learn to cope inthe real world.

  5. Tim from Texas says:

    Many little Johnnys are born into a life that progresses as follows:

    If he’s born into a single parent home, she/he, works very long hours or 1&1/2 to 2 jobs.
    If he’s born into a 2 parent home, they both have a job and work a whole day or longer.

    He gets to stay home and be breast fed by the mother, if he’s lucky, for 6weeks.

    Then it’s back to work for mother, and to day care for little Johnny.

    Then he receives minimal care, minimal attention, and minimal nurishment for as long as he stays in day care.

    Everyday he’s picked up by the tired, many times exhausted parent, given the quick and easy supper, most times, packaged prepared food heated in the microwave along with a soda or two or three. This starts with toddler Johnny too.

    Then, some where along the way he’s introduced to diet colas because that’s what mom and/or dad drink, as if any cola could be good for any one.
    On the side observation here, I’ve seen and heard of a few people who have kicked the regular soda habit, but I’ve have never seen or heard of anyone kicking the diet cola habit.

    Now back to home after supper. Now that Johnny has had his semi-junk-food or junk-food supper with the colas, most of the time caffenated colas, Johnny is a buzzing, wants and needs the attention of the parent(s). The parents are very tired, so it’s in front of the tv with his parents for a while, if he’s lucky. Then it’s to his room for more tv. Then, on “lucky evenings” for him, on or about 8:00 P.M., it’s to the store of any kind to get what he wants or can get, which he learned about while the tv was spewing at him. So it’s into the auto,with the radio on all the way, while eating some kind of junk food snack. At the store it’s another caffeine soda on the way in to drink while there. There, some toy or thing is bought for him, while mom and/or dad find somehting for themselves, and if it’s at the grocery store it’s more junk food and junk drinks for future child and parent passification, then it’s another round of sodas on the way out. Well, it’s now 10:00 P.M. or so arriving back at home. Then Little Johnny gets to bed about 10:30 and possibly to sleep by 11:00– this is when he’s four years old “already”. The cycle gets worse and later as he gets older.

    Weekends are even more productive. The entire Sat. and Sun. can be spent shopping till they drop or relaxing in front of the spewing tv with junk-foods and junk-drinks. Why hell, it’s the weekend isn’t it, so let him stay up to midnight or beyond.

    Hopefully, somewhere in there some homework and reading gets done, but is difficult to think much is accomplished along those lines.

    This goes on and on until he’s a teenager, and then it continues even deeper into the night with all other types of terrible things availabe to him legal and illegal. Then he’s off on his on to college, or out completly on his own, but the habits are unshakeable.

    Yes, yes, I know I have gone on and on about this again and again, and I will close shortly, but not before writing the following.

    This way of life is lunacy, which is tantamount to an assault on the children.

    Our economy is making billions upon billions from our chidrens misery, therefore we adults are taking our share directly or indirectly.

    I think the remedy is obvious and strikingly apparent and it ain’t Ritalin or any other drug.

    I think it’s outright pathological to allow all things both unhealthy for the body and mind to be put in front of our youth on a constant never ending basis no matter where they live and go, and then expect bahavior and life-habits to be consistant with some other reality.

    I’ve been ranting and raving for it’s just the way I see it.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Or just beat the crap out of them and make them behave. [Works until they turn 17-18]

  7. After reading the comments by Tim, I thank the Good Lord that my mother stayed home with me.

    Do you really think that infants are undernourished at day care? That is truly frightening.

  8. Tim has looked into hell and brought back a disturbing account.

    Too bad it is the reality for far too many.

  9. In most cases, ADHD is a substitute diagnosis for “boy”. Boys are no longer allowed to be boys-they must now act like prim little girls. They are not allowed to run during recess, if they have any recess at all. They are not allowed to play dodgeball or football-too violent.

    Symptoms of “ADHD” can be treated with discipline and flexibility. Unfortunately, teachers, although having smaller class sizes than in the past, cannot provide either one.

    I have been pressured many times to put my child on Ritalin. I have always refused. Instead, I have looked to flexible schools and classrooms where the teachers are willing to work with me in the best interests of my son. If the environment changes, and the teachers start trying to dictate to me what they will and won’t do, I find another school. He is MY child, and I am in charge of his education-they are not, even though they think they are.

  10. I recently profiled a similar case from New Mexico ( The father took his son off of the psychotropes because the boy was suffering severe side effects and because he “just wasn’t Daniel”. The boy’s disruptive behavior returned and the school found out that the drugs had been stopped. They called the Dept of Children, Youth and Families. He was then told that if he didn’t medicate the boy he would be arrested for abuse and neglect.

    The article I referenced went on to discuss some truly frightening statistics and what they mean for the youth of today:

    “A recent study by Express Scripts Inc., a medical benefits management company, found antidepressant use increased 49 percent among consumers younger than 18 between 1998 and 2002. Preschoolers up to age 5, the study found, were the fastest-growing users of prescription antidepressants.”

    Preschoolers up to age 5 are the fastest growing users. How in the world is that possible?

  11. I am both a teacher and the wife of an ADD husband and mother to two ADD children. My husband grew up when no one knew what ADD was, and he was constantly told, “you are not trying hard enough, if you would put forth more effort, you would be more successful.” My husband is a very intelligent man, but his grades didn’t show it. We have to remember that ADD doesn’t just manifest itself through fidgeting. It is an attention problem. Kids cannot focus – they cannot stay on task, not matter how badly they want to. It is like the world is on a constant channel changer – the channels keep changing, and there’s no way to stop it.

    I am a strong believer in medicating kids who need it. Would you not give insulin to a child who was diabetic because “we are overmedicating our children”? Of course not! Truly ADD children need medication to help them be successful in school just as diabetic children need insulin to survive. My 15 year old daughter is having problems (because of puberty onset) finding a medication that works for her, so she is just having to cope. She is a gifted/talented student making anywhere from A’s to C’s – not normal for G/T kids, but normal for ADD kids. My 11-year old son is on Ritalin, and it works for him. He is able to stay fixed on lessons in class and does tend to do better – we are still working on the “remembering to turn in assignments” aspect of it (forgetfulness is also a big problem).

    Tim from Texas’ picture is probably the norm for 2-4% of kids out there, not the majority. Kids are not undernourished at day care (I don’t know where you get that from!) because they are inspected by regulator agencies. My youngest got a hot balanced meal at day care every day. Harried lifestyles are hard on kids, but they are not the cause of ADD behavior.

    As you have probably guessed, I have done a lot of research on ADD, to be both a better teacher and a better mother. I do believe that there are alternatives to medication, but ignoring the problem is not one of them. Parents need to get their child evaluated by a psychologist who they know is not out to “medicate every child they see.” Find a reputable doctor, take your kid in, and have him or her tested. If they are found to have ADD, ask about alternatives if you are not comfortable with medication. But consider this, if you as a parent want your child to be successful in school, to have a good self esteem about their schoolwork, and not have to deal with constant frustration about school as they get older, medication may be a good idea.

    Yes, ADD is real, yes it is overdiagnosed, but we shouldn’t ignore the problem for those kids (and adults) who really have it.

  12. Why does it never occur to anyone that some of these kids–perhaps most of them–find their attention wandering because they’re done?

    They’ve finished with the material and are being forced to sit while the slower kids learn it. We keep hearing ‘kids cannot focus’ and ‘they can’t stay on task’ without ever considering what it’s like to have to sit through the ‘task’ when you’ve already done it.

    My daughter could read before entering school. Can you imagine what it was like sitting through letter recognition, sounding out words, whole-language garbage and all the other lessons that she didn’t need? Sympathetic teachers gave here other tasks, books to read or other lessons. Unsympathetic teachers tried to ‘socialize’ her and make her sit and ‘learn’ with the other children. One refused to believe she could read and made a fuss over her practice of bringing books to class.

    Needless to say, my daughter was ‘a behavior problem’ for some teachers. And she exhibited all the ‘symptoms’ of the ‘syndrome’.

    Except that she didn’t when she wasn’t being forced to sit through things she already knew.

    I don’t believe in ‘ADD’. I think it’s a crock. I feel sorry for parents who’ve been fooled into turning bright children into drugged zombies.

    I do believe in hyperactivity disorder. As a disease, it has the benefit of having symptoms that don’t just bother teachers. It’s very real. And I expect that there are kids, diagnosed with this mythical ‘ADD’ who are actually hyperactive, who actually do benefit and who actually get better. But most, in my opinion, are simply crushed under the diagnoses of teachers and paper-pushing bureaucrats.

  13. D Anghelone says:

    Maybe the problem is that the schools are institutions – warehouses, jails, whatever.
    Maybe these kids are reacting as normal people would to being institutionalized.

  14. If you really believe that schools stifle your kids or treat them like prisoners, then I have the answer for you. HOMESCHOOL your little darlings!!!

  15. Huh. Give your kid a beer, go to jail. Don’t give your kid a psycho-active neural accelerant with a host of known negative side-effects, go to jail.

    “If you really believe that schools stifle your kids or treat them like prisoners, then I have the answer for you. HOMESCHOOL your little darlings!!!”

    Yes, but while you’re doing so don’t forget to continue paying taxes so severely overpaid pampered incompetents can continue happily running their useless “academic” prisons.


  16. Tim from Texas says:

    I did not write that children at day care facilities are undernourished, I wrote they are minimal nourished. It is inherent in the day care business to provide minimal everything, just what the the traffic will bear, definitely not more and in some instances less. They are businesses for profit or they are funded by government,and other entities, such as some companies provide in-house facilities, but all provide minimal everything. Yes, I’m sure a few exceptions could be found where more than the minimal is provided, but not much more. The question here again is, what is the situation for the greater majority of families? Now the very affluent and extremely rich provide better through nannies and very expensive day care facilities, which they can afford. This group represents about 4% to 7% of the population, it is probably less, and even they do some ridiculous things to their children all for the mighty buck and selfishness also, but alas, that is another story.

    Also, it has been written here that the “harried” lifestyle described in my previous post is the “norm” for just 2-4% of the children. Well, I agrue it is much more than that. I argue it is a majority. The size of this majority can be debated certainly. However, I think to argue that it’s not a majority is impossible. First, just take a few days to tour your city. Take the entire day each day and go to multiple areas, multiple stores. Get out of the auto, walk around, don’t shop, just observe and listen. Look at what is being purchased by the majority of people. This by itself will give credence to my argument.

    Moreover, if that is not enough to convince anyone, then think about it this way. If it were not a majority then how is it that Pepsico and many other like companies are so huge, and so profitable. Then there are those not so huge companies all the way to those small companies making descent business likewise. What is it that these companies produce that we need, much less our children?

    Now,I think here we can be fair to the business community, for as they say, they produce what we buy. I don’t however, agree entirely with that argument for they also have some guilt surely. Nevertheless, it is mainly our fault for thay have shown they will make any and all changes in their businesses necessary to remain in business. There is already proof for this which is evidenced in the changes many companies have made to accomodate the “Atkins diet” low carb. craze. Companies will do it in every circumstance to stay viable and profitable. Now, we need to get into a “craze” to help the children. I think the business concerns will definitely follow our lead and our purchasing habits. Besides, we are all part of the business community. That community will do what our community forces them to do, for it is impossible for it to survive otherwise. This is a valid argument isn’t it?

    When it comes to medications for our children, yes, there are medications, of course, that heal and help them. For example, diabetic children and adults do need insulin to make their lives better, and in many cases to survive. However,these deseases and many others have already been argued and proven to be caused in many cases, and some argue in most cases, by what is consumed( semi-junk and junk food,junk beverages),and all around bad diets, and by harried-stressful lifestyles.

    Furthermore, I am not arguing that some of these children who are beleived to have ADD or ADHD don’t need some type of help, and medications if necessary. With some of the older children and adults it’s can be argued such is more likely for
    the lifestyle and/or problem, whatever the cause, is set to such an extent that it is unchangeable without drugs of some sort.

    However, Ritalin is speed pure and simple with many side effects ranging from bad to horrendous.
    It is also extremely addictive. Helpful to some, yes, although I think it can be argued that it should be used only as the last resort.

    Our junk-food-junk-beverage, and all around harried, stressful lifestyle, evidenced also by the scurrying around we do day in and day out to get more of same is not good for us and it is terrible for the children. Can any one argue that it is wise and prudent to to do this to children or allow it to be done to children. If so, I would definitely like to hear it.

  17. Anonymous says:

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that most public schools receive extra federal money for the diagnosis of ADHD and other special education. Could that account for the rise of ADHD?

    A parent has the right to not medicate their child. If the school insists, parents should have the right to homeschool their child and not have to pay taxes to the district.

  18. Mark Odell says:

    If a guy’s president of the United States, how can you tell paranoia from common sense? I mean, people really are out to get him. Megalomania too. He is powerful.

    All excellent reasons to make the presidency a lot less powerful.

  19. lindenen says:

    Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

    As prime minister, Tony Blair has way more power than Bush.

    Parents should have the right to send their kids to a private school if they can’t afford home schooling or private school.

  20. Why does it never occur to anyone that some of these kids–perhaps most of them–find their attention wandering because they’re done?

    The kids who truly are ADHD don’t get done. They can’t focus on what they’re doing enough to get done. They’re the ones who are halfway through and staring out the window (or bouncing off the walls) when all the other kids are finished.

  21. Walter E. Wallis says:

    That shrink – his drive-by diagnosis of presidential ADHD is like that phony drive-by IQ assessment that put Bush at 90 and Clinton way up – without explaining why the assessment ingnored the fact that you can not become a fighter pilot unless you are way up there both in intelligence, so as to know what to do, and in judgement so you know when to do it. An instrument penetration of heavy weather yields nothing to political influence. You are either really good or really dead.

  22. Anonymous says:

    “However, Ritalin is speed pure and simple with many side effects ranging from bad to horrendous.
    It is also extremely addictive. ”

    Ritalin is not speed. It’s a stimulant, but then so is caffeine, and we don’t say caffeine is speed. However, Adderall, another ADD drug, is precisely a low dose of amphetamines.

    Ritalin is not addictive, and neither is Adderall in the doses given to folks with ADD. In fact, people with ADD forget things, and one of the things they forget is to take their meds, as I’m sure all the teachers here can testify. There’s no addictive craving going on.

  23. Laura, being unable to focus one’s attention is a symptom of hyperactivity disorder. Adding “attention deficit’ to the disorder has allowed them to remove the actual problem ‘hyperactivity’, and treat bored kids as if their boredom is a disease.

    Kids who are actually hyperactive have a lot more problems than mere attention deficiencies. That problem is one among many. HD is real. ADD, without that H is, in my experience, not.

  24. Mark Odell says:

    Walter E. Wallis wrote: the fact that you can not become a fighter pilot unless you are way up there both in intelligence, so as to know what to do, and in judgement so you know when to do it. An instrument penetration of heavy weather yields nothing to political influence.

    Ah, how quickly we forget. Lt. Hultgreen got the worst of both worlds: “benefit” from political influence, and death.

  25. Cardinal Fang says:

    ADD without hyperactivity runs in my family. I have it, my son has it, my mother, brother, sister, niece and nephew have it.

    Thing is, even without the large-motor hyperactivity, ADD people can’t sit quite still. They fidget, wriggle, doodle, bite their fingernails and pencils, roll up papers, chew on their hair. When my son went to the psychiatrist for his diagnosis, he was sitting in a swivel chair. For the entire half hour or so, he sat there, paying attention to the doc rather than, say, getting up and trashing the doc’s office. But the swivel on that chair didn’t stop swiveling for one second.

    Obviously fidgeting is not a reason to medicate; non-hyperactive ADD folks take drugs so they can be just a little organized and finish something, for once. I just mention it to show that ADD (non hyperactive) people are not very different from their hyperactive cousins.

  26. Tim from Texas says:

    Whatever Ritalin is and whatever it is called, the scientist, doctors, and experts cannot agree as to the ramifications and dangers in using it.

    My arguement is that it’s a drug and there are risks involved in taking drugs. The known risks in taking Ritalin is verified by the long disclaimer forced on the manufacturer by the FDA.

    For this reason it can be stated that a change in diet, sleeping habits, and general lifestyle and all other possible remedies should be experienced first, is a valid argument.