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ADHD and Kids: What is going on?

ADHD and Kids: What is going on?
Max S. Chartrand, PhD
September 8, 2003

Editor's note: Although we don't usually publish ''op-ed'' material, this article presents compelling and important information, and I believe it is beneficial for all of us who work with, have, or were once were children! Please send your thoughts to me on this topic. We'll consider all responsible opinions for publication. Thanks! ---Douglas Beck, Editor-In-Chief.

With school starting again, I'd like to address a serious health issue that has been a long-standing interest of mine. This fall, more than 7 million American school-aged children1,2, or about 1 in 12, will be placed on a stimulant, similar to ''speed.'' Ritalin or its chemical variants are used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a non-clinical condition that many of us in the cognitive/communicative research community consider to be a somewhat contrived epidemic.

Just 20 years ago there were less than a half-million children placed on these powerful and potentially dangerous drugs. But between 1990 to 1997 there has been a 700% increase in the use of Ritalin et al3, and the rate continues today unabated. The United States, with only 5% of the world's population, consumes more than 85% of such medications4.To me, this state of affairs appears out of control!

Perhaps at the heart of this ''epidemic'' is the alliance between the U. S. Department of Education (DOE) and certain pharmaceutical companies5. It appears that billions of federal taxpayer dollars are dangled in front of cash-starved public schools, complete with slick video tape and print materials and workshops, to help the schools find, identify and treat as many children as possible. So aggressive has been the campaign to force this form of treatment and non-clinical diagnosis on parents and the public school system, that already 13 states have passed laws forbidding its recommendation.

In the meantime, more and more, medical doctors who previously resisted doing so have begun ''diagnosing'' without benefit of clinical tests or identifiable physical markers, and giving out prescriptions for powerful drugs like Ritalin, Wellbutrin, Effexor, and Desipramine. These are Class II narcotics ranked with opium, cocaine, morphine, and codeine6. Side effects can include; anxiety (for which anti-anxiety medication is often given), insomnia (sleeping pills for this), kidney failure, enlarged heart, seizures, addictive personality, and even death7.

Max S. Chartrand, PhD

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