It is damning that we have gone from saying no to – all forms of – drugs towards taking a pill for [insert whichever ‘condition’ with which you have been diagnosed] in just one generation. An example of this is the recent, past 20 years or so, explosion in the numbers of instances of children being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The validity of this so-called ‘disorder’ is disputed, with scientific evidence emerging that the medication provided to counter the effects actually stunts brain growth in children, thus resulting in learning impairment and a loss in academic performance.
The peer-reviewed Journal of Health Economics recently published an article focusing on whether or not stimulant medications improve educational and behavioural outcomes for children with ADHD (Currie et al., 2014). The researchers – from Princeton, Cornell, and the University of Toronto – highlighted that an increasing use of stimulants did not improve the medium- or the long-term educational outcomes, no improvement in children with the worst ADHD symptoms was witnessed, and an increase in cases of depression among girls with a proportional increase in medication. The study suggested that expanding the medication – background of the study: in 1997, the Canadian province of Québec had made policy changes that resulted in people acquiring prescription drugs much more easily – had more harmful effects and very little positive benefits.
For the treatment of ADHD, the commonly prescribed medications are Ritalin and Adderall, which inhibit the natural behaviour of children. Instead of reducing classroom outbursts and improving their learning capacity, misinformed parents have been drugging their children with mind-altering medication in an attempt to make them docile, not realising the long-term brain damage associated with continued usage. Doubts have been expressed regarding the validity of this ‘disorder’ and the associated medical treatment by psychologist L. Alan Sroufe, who wrote in his opinion article for The New York Times, “To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships, or [behaviour] problems, the very things we would most want to improve”, added Sroufe. “Putting children on drugs does nothing to change the conditions that derail their development in the first place” (Sroufe, 2012).
Just like OCD and other dreamt up mental disorders, hyperactivity does not need to be treated with a medication that is no different than the ‘speed’, the street drug equivalent, but needs to a creative outlet. These children are bursting with creativity; their excitement to learn, hear, feel, taste, and experience things does not need to be suppressed with anti-psychotic drugs. Stunting the development is the last thing we should be doing.
- Currie, J., Stabile, M. & Jones, L., 2014. Do stimulant medications improve educational and behavioral outcomes for children with ADHD? Journal of Health Economics, 37, pp.58–69.
- Sroufe, L.A., 2012. Ritalin Gone Wrong. [Online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/opinion/sunday/childrens-add-drugs-dont-work-long-term.html?_r=0