The scandal and tragedy of over-medicated kids

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A psychologist named L. Alan Sroufe who was there in the beginning when conditions like “A.D.D.” were first characterized as problems, and who believed treatment with drugs like Ritalin was correct and helpful, pens an interesting column in the NY Times: Ritalin Gone Wrong: Children’s A.D.D. Drugs Don’t Work Long Term. Read it and weep.

In essence, he indicates that the weight of evidence now shows that the behavior problems (and related anomalies in brain functioning) identified as “A.D.D.” are brought on by experiences. And that these same behaviors (and related anomalies in brain functioning) can be changed or eliminated through further experiences.

In other words, it’s what they used to call life. And growing up. It’s harder for some than others, for a whole host of reasons, specific to that individual and that individual’s experiences.

Ritalin, meanwhile, being a stimulant, helps anyone on a temporary basis focus better on tasks that they might otherwise find dull and repetitive. However, its efficacy wears off over time. It turns out that no study has ever shown any long term benefit from treatment with “A.D.D.” drugs on “academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems.” And then, when you take the child off the drug—since their brain has adapted to it—they are going to have an increase in problems.

His conclusion? It’s a big mess. Millions of kids have grown up, and are growing up, being told effectively that there is something “inherently defective” about them when that is not necessarily true. Children with difficulties of an “A.D.D.” nature have complex reasons for those difficulties and each child should instead be treated as an individual.

Thanks for telling us, doc.