At the risk of offending many people, I’d like to express my concerns about the role of public schools in promoting widespread use of an addictive mind-altering drug among our children. While there may be cases where Ritalin is needed and where it has helped (I know some people who are convinced that it helped them), there are some who provide convincing evidence of over-prescription of this dangerous drug. See, for example, the work of Dr. Peter Breggin at Breggin.com.
It seems that some teachers and administrators in public schools frequently tell parents that they need to get their child to a doctor to get Ritalin because the child exhibits problematic symptoms — things like talking in class, wiggling, having lots of energy, not paying attention, and showing other tell-tale indications of, well, being young (or having a boring class). I’m familiar with one recent example where a healthy, intelligent child I know seems to have anything but a mental disorder, yet Ritalin is what the teacher says is needed. By doping the kids up on Ritalin, they apparently cause less trouble (as if sitting quietly were the goal of our educational system), but parents are often not told of the side effects and risks.
According to testimony from Dr. Breggin, the warning label on the drug as provided by the manufacturer fails to provide critical information that would be required of other medications, such as these facts:
- Ritalin is not a “mild” stimulant as the label claims, but one of the most powerful and addictive of stimulants, comparable to methamphetamine;
- Ritalin is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency, which is the highest schedule for drugs having a medical use (Schedule I means there is no acceptable medical use, while less dangerous drugs fall into Schedules III, IV, or V), putting it among the most dangerous and abuse-prone drugs that can be legally prescribed.
- Ritalin has the potential to be addictive and has a severe potential for abuse – in fact, it is frequently stolen and sold illegally to drug abusers.
- Withdrawal from Ritalin can have dangerous side effects (warning: if your kids are on Ritalin, please see a doctor before taking them off – there can be dangerous side effects to withdrawal).
Tear down the “Drug Free Zone” signs that mask the reality in so many schools: they are zones where powerful drugs are routinely pushed upon families, including many LDS kids. Most LDS parents would never think of getting our kids started on an addictive drug like nicotine or amphetamine unless there truly was no other way to deal with a dangerous medical problem. Many LDS parents urge their children to avoid Diet Coke because it contains the stimulant caffeine, but Ritalin is a far more dangerous stimulant than caffeine. If a teacher told you that your kids needed a shot of java each morning to do better in school, would you do it?
The fact that millions of kids are urged to get on Ritalin for mild behavioral problems may be one of the great tragedies of our day – and a potential violation of the Word of Wisdom that faithful LDS parents haven’t considered.
I am not a medical doctor and my personal opinions and those of Dr. Breggin may be wildly incorrect, so please check things out for yourself and consult your doctor before doing anything. Don’t accept viewpoints just because some fool has expressed them on a blog! But when a teacher tells you that your kid needs Ritalin, for heavens’ sake, understand that the teacher has no right to make such a diagnosis and may not understand just what a dangerous course they are advising.
“Drug Free Zone” indeed!
Other resources that may be of value:
- “Ritalin Fast Facts” – from the National Drug Intelligence Center (Dept. of Justice)
- “Ritalin and Inhalants – a New Danger“
- “Attention Disorder: Overcoming the Deficit Abuse of Attention Deficit Drug Can Be Deadly” – from Kidsource.com