A college freshman calls on his girlfriend at her parent’s house. Waiting for her to come downstairs, he asks her mom if he can go to the kitchen for a glass of water. In the cabinet next to the sink, he reaches a glass and something else — his girlfriend’s 12-year-old sister’s giant bottle of prescription Ritalin, at least 100 pills inside. He pockets 3 or 4, finishes his water and turns on his best Eddie Haskell as he returns to the living room. A modern tale of today’s depraved teenage druggies? No. True Confessions: that was I, in 1969.
See, little “Jackie”, we’ll call her, was diagnosed as being “hyperactive” and prescribed Ritalin, proving our fascination with drugging our children began a long, long time ago. Ritalin and other forms of amphetamines have ended up being the “go to” pharmaceutical solution for a “disease” that has variably been called “hyperactivity”, “attention deficit disorder”, and more recently “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” The reliance on drugs to address what many don’t even consider a disease is an example of an even broader problem often called “disease mongering.”
Society’s widespread grand experiment with drugs, and in this case psychoactive, mind-altering methamphetamine psychostimulants and related derivatives like Ritalin, including Focalin, Adderall and Concerta has led to wide abuse of the drug, of the term and of medical diagnoses in general. It’s especially a problem when so many intelligent researchers believe that ADD, ADHD and other diagnoses aren’t really diseases anyway.
Disease Mongering There’s big bucks to be made if a segment of the economy can convince a group of people they are sick and need a solution that only the techno-pharmaceutical-medical industry has to offer. That’s what Big Pharma pulled off back in the 1950s with the designation of hyperactivity as a childhood disease and convinced a rapidly deteriorating nuclear family that kids like little “Jackie” could be cured by drugs. As a solution, pills are easy to swallow, especially when rapid change is noticeable. But two things are worth questioning: is ADHD really a disease and just because a drug changes the patient, does that solve anything?
ADHD or “A Beautiful Mind”? Scott Barry Kaufman is a cognitive psychologist and director at the Positive Psychology Center of the University of Pennsylvania. He is one of a multitude of highly credentialed scientists and doctors who question whether ADHD is even a disease. And Kaufman has a compelling argument that we are overmedicating our kids (and adults) when drugs aren’t needed because they aren’t sick. Kaufman reports the way our educational and psychiatric systems view ADHD may be seriously flawed.
“What I like to do is look at the different characteristics that are associated with the [ADHD] label,” he says. “It is a label at the end of the day, and it’s something that we put on people, especially in an educational context.”
As quoted on The Takeaway, according to Kaufman, people who have been diagnosed with ADHD appear to have more active imaginations. But the ADHD label can be profoundly determinative, that is, the diagnosis can even channel kids into special programs, and sometimes narrow their options in high school and college. Kaufman says that parents need to work with schools to identify learning formats that don’t stifle creative thinking.
Kaufman considers ADHD-type behavior an attribute of the creative, imaginative mind. It doesn’t need a cure because it’s not a disease. Parents may find hyperactive kids a handful at times but should they be drugged? Kaufman believes that ADHD may also be evolutionary.
“About 50,000 years ago when a band of us left Africa, went to Europe, and eventually conquered the world, in order to travel and go such distances it was found that there was a genetic mutation,” he says. “This particular genetic mutation is associated with dopamine and has also been associated with ADHD. Without [ADHD] characteristics, we may not have become Homo sapiens.”
Who calls the shot? Another major problem with defining a child’s ambitious and active mind as a disease is that it usually involves non-medical people inputting whether a child is in need of the drug or not. The first people to note the so-called symptoms of the so-called disease are usually teachers, day care providers, babysitters and lay persons untrained in psychology or medicine. Parents then rush to the doctor and the doc prescribes drugs. Child psychologist Dr. Laura Batstra asks to consider the influence of Big Pharma, too.
“Diagnosing ADHD is in the industry’s interest, driving up drug sales. An information flow is created in which ADHD is categorized as a neurobiological brain disorder,” says Batstra, who believes that the industry plainly promotes the disorder. ‘It goes much too far. The industry has tentacles everywhere. Pharmacists sponsor parents’ groups, produce websites about ADHD and ‘lionize’ doctors who prescribe the medicines.”
To be sure, some people swear drugs are needed to control or even enhance their kids’ lives. Putting a dubious label on a youngster may be going too far. Drugging them definitely is.
Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit HeartlandHealing.com for more information.