Lucy in the Sky with Ritalin
Riposte – By Sumner Burstyn.
Here’s a trend. Say your normal child is not doing so well at school. No real problems, just not that attentive or interested in learning. The teachers are not happy; after all they have unit standards to achieve. The school board and principal are not happy. They have National Standards to meet. Just what is a concerned parent to do?
If you’re in America it’s easy. You simply drug your kids for success. Doctors in the US now openly acknowledge they prescribe meds designed for ADHD for normal children with failing grades.
One, Dr Michael Anderson described himself in an article in The New York Times last week as a “social justice thinker.” He said the kids he sees with academic problems are essentially “mismatched with their environment.” He believes his prescribing of ADHD and other mind-altering drugs as ‘leveling the playing field.”
What he’s talking about is kids caught in poverty and the underfunded schools they have to attend. Those schools can’t provide the programs or assistance that education in wealthy areas can, so the kids with reading or math problems or other issues fall behind.
Apart from their poverty these are normal kids who in no way reach the standard for ADHD diagnosis. But with pressure from parents and teachers doctors prescribe the drugs to enable the kids to focus and do well despite the failings of the system around them.
It makes you wonder, what kind of parent drugs their normal child with mind-altering substances just because they are doing badly at school.
And you realize, mostly it’s the act of a desperate parent with few options, a parent who can’t afford remedial classes, a better diet, and an alternative school or to fight for opportunity and fair conditions for those caught in poverty.
After 40 years studying ADHD, New Zealand psychologist and behavioral expert Dr Frances Steinberg says it is well known the ADHD stimulants will improve performance in normal kids. But she says it is “salacious thinking and crazy to drug kids who don’t have a disorder.” She says when you combine poverty, poor nutrition, problematic family dynamics, a range of social problems with underfunded schools it is a form of class warfare. “It’s not leveling the playing field. It’s just a way to mask the problems and ensure those same kids remain disadvantaged in the future.
With 270,000 children caught in poverty in New Zealand, that’s roughly one in four kiwi kids living below ‘recognized poverty thresholds’ it’s obvious the trend for drugging kids is bound to affect New Zealand children.
In fact in May this year it was reported that 100,000 Kiwi kids are now on ADHD drugs, a massive leap from the 60,000 who were prescribed them in 2001 Dr Steinberg says at the very least we are we are over drugging children here simply because we don’t always go through the proper diagnostics to rule out other factors. “We don’t require comprehensive school and home environment assessments, we don’t use proper diagnostics to rule out processing difficulties for instance. The majority of children diagnosed here are one on the basis of an interview and rating scales.
Dr. Steinberg personally knows of one physician in South Auckland who is known for finding ADHD in most of the kids that come to him. “Many parents travel great distances to get their kids diagnosed and drugged, despite then fact that diagnosing such a condition is a complex process, that requires a lot of time to get right.
Of course the irony is we spend so much on trying to stamp out non-pharmaceutical drug abuse in our society while the pharma industry gets to advertise its wares direct to consumers (let’s not kid ourselves and call them patients) and the real drug dealers are wearing white coats.
And sadly your kid on Adderall or Risperdal or Ritalin is not smarter when he or she is drugged. It’s like taking LSD. One day you’re a superhero, the next your special powers have evaporated. The drugs might solve a problem for parents or help some schools meet their National Standards requirements. But that blank faced, medicated kid making his grades and not talking back to the teacher is tomorrows tragic drug addict.