Below is an interesting article that I
picked up through Twitter. It might provide for some good
discussion, as this seems to be an ongoing theme – the matter of
medication for children.
Werner van der Westhuizen
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
From Psychology Today, March 2012 from Twitter:
The Question that Dare Not Be Asked
By Robert Whitaker on August 31, 2010 – 8:43am
In the New York Times science section today (August 31), Weill Cornell Medical College psychiatrist Richard Friedman writes about how illicit drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine may permanently reduce a person's capacity for enjoying life's splendors. These drugs, he notes, activate the brain's reward system by releasing dopamine. However, he observes, the brain then tries to compensate for the drug's presence, and it does so by becoming less sensitive to dopamine. The brain may end up with a "less responsive reward circuit," Friedman writes, which never fully repairs itself even after the drug use stops. The result is that the person may then be condemned to "endure a dulled life."
All of that may be true. But here is what is missing from this article:
Ritalin and the other stimulants used to treat ADHD in children also activate the dopamine system. Ritalin, in fact, does it in much the same manner that cocaine does, and with equal potency. (The difference is that Ritalin is not cleared from the body as quickly as cocaine, and thus a dose of Ritalin has longer-acting effects than cocaine.) In response, the stimulant-using brain undergoes changes that make it less sensitive to dopamine release -- it is trying to compensate for the drug's presence.
And so now the obvious question. If this process, in those who use cocaine or other illicit drugs, may lead to a "less responsive reward circuit,"
which never fully repairs itself even after the drug use stops, isn't there a similar risk with putting children on Ritalin or other stimulants? Is this a treatment that may cause children to "endure a dulled life" as adults?
It seems like a question that psychiatry – based on this article by Richard Friedman in the New York Times – should ask.
I wholeheartedly agree with your comments and conclusions on Friedman's article. In my opinion more damage is being done through the legalized drugging of children than through the availability of the ubiquitous illegal substances Friedman is so concerned about. The difference is that designer drugs, like Ritalin, are demanded by parents and schools, pushed by the most powerful group in the helping professions and supplied by one of the largest and most profitable industries in North America.
These drugs are not offered to kids in schoolyards for fun, they are administered within health-care systems as cures for phony diseases and disorders. They are not a reflection of society's deviance but an expression of our collective intention to bring kids into line, whatever the short and long term costs.
In other words, their danger lies in their
unquestioned legitimacy. We have no idea what impact these
chemicals are having on developing brains and, given the Corporate
control of research, chances are we never will until the evidence is
staring us in the face.
Nicely said Gerry!! I agree wholeheartedly. I don't believe that drugs (or Ritalin) is the answer... Though it is a short term band aid to behavior problems... It is just that – a band aid. I am not a psychiatrist but I have read many studies that suggest it could have the same effects as cocaine in that it can alter the brain's ability to release dopamine...
Though much more work (and equally effective), all that is needed are behavioral interventions that will set up a child with success.
Unfortunately, too many adults in a child's life may not be equipped enough to deal with the frustrating behaviors of a child who suffers from ADHD. So they resort to the quick fix so they don't have to... Sad really!
Thanks very very much for making these comments. I have fought our drug mentality for many years. Putting more good food and exercise in our bodies makes more sense socially, mentally, and economically. No drugs in my system since prescription drug given in 1992. I find other denied issues which are not allowed to be talked about are at the forefront of the very claims of the only cure. Heaven forbid if you disagree.
Well said Gerry and Werner. In my teaching I consistently ask students to question the whole construct of the DSM IV and challenge the insidious creep of drugging children in the Scottish context. I worry that few leaders in our field and children's advocates raise their heads above the parapet and speak out on this issue.