Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ritalin use doubles after divorce, study finds

From Reuters via Yahoo courtesy of AlterNet:

Children from broken marriages are twice as likely to be prescribed attention-deficit drugs as children whose parents stay together, a Canadian researcher said on Monday, and she said the reasons should be investigated.

More than 6 percent of 633 children from divorced families were prescribed
Ritalin, compared with 3.3 percent of children whose parents stayed together, University of Alberta professor Lisa Strohschein reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.


Ritalin, known generically as methylphenidate, is a psychostimulant drug most commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

There is a big debate in much of the developed world over whether it may be over-prescribed -- given to children who do not really need it. In March, a University of California, Berkeley study found that the use of drugs to treat ADHD has more than tripled worldwide since 1993.

More here.

Okay, this drug is definitely over-prescribed: if my information's correct, most Ritalin prescriptions in the US come from regular MD's, who have been heavily pressured by parents, rather than from psychiatrists; the problem here is that you absolutely have to have a psychiatrist to diagnose ADHD, which means there are a lot of kids out there tweaking in class simply because their parents can't deal with normal childish behavior.

It makes complete sense that kids from divorced families would lose some ability to focus while their homes are in turmoil, and that their newly single parents would turn to the local pediatrician for some mother's-little-helper. And that's pretty fucked up. In other words, it's a safe bet that most of the kids in this study don't have ADHD, and they're being drugged for expediency and convenience. I mean, they probably could use some therapy, and maybe even some anti-depressants or something, but making an unwarranted diagnosis and then treating it with the wrong drug is just plain bad.

Don't get me wrong here. I'm not one of those ADD deniers; believe me, after teaching high school for six years, I've seen it in action, and it's pretty damned intense. But it's just not as widespread as it seems to be. Children are supposed to get antsy when confined for long periods of time, which is necessarily annoying to the adults who deal with them. Now that we can drug them to control their behaviors, the temptation to do it to every unruly kid is apparently overwhelming.

And none of this even begins to address the fact that ADHD, the real deal, not the fake stuff, has most likely been a naturally occurring human phenomenon for thousands of years, probably even serving an important evolutionary function in some way, but it is only in the information era, which demands that humans sit still and pay attention to boring drivel for the majority of the day, that it has become pathologized.

Meanwhile, the now debunked anti-drug D.A.R.E. program continues to expand throughout the public school system. So I'm confused now: are drugs good for us or bad for us?