in memory of Kurt Cobain 1967-1994
(If you have a gifted child, you should read this (Is It A Cheetah?) at least once!)

There are a number of people who clearly have ADHD or the equivalent to the extent of not being able to adequately function in life. This article is not intended to dismiss the use of Ritalin in all cases.

There is a difference between drugs given in therapy and chemical restraint. If your child is in that category (or if you are in that category), I'm sure you won't be dissuaded in any case. You'll probably also agree that the drug is being grossly overprescribed to those who do not require drug therapy!

Ritalin is a tradename for Methylphenidate hydrochloride, an antidepressant stimulant. There is no generic common name for the drug. Other antidepressant stimulants are real cocaine, novocaine, other cocaine substitutes. Ritalin is not a classic antidepressant in the sense of Prosaic.

Street names for Methylphenidate hydrochloride are "r-ball" and "vitamin r."

While children are the obvious victims here, the same message applies to adults. If you are the student, please excuse the third party ("your child") language. The message is the same!

Legally Ritalin is a Schedule II drug in the same category as opium, cocaine and morphine. (In contrast, Valium is not and its dispensing is only regulated under state laws.)
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History - A Brave New World of Psychopharmacology

The early history of using what was then called "chemotherapy" in treatment of children includes some of the testing by Lauretta Bender related to amphetamines, LSD-25 and UML-491. This is detailed on a separate page,

The amazing thing about these early tests was the degree to which the experimenters were willing to use these drugs on a maintenance course of treatment (administering the drugs on a daily basis).

Right to Decline to Medicate and Recent History

To separate page on declining to prescribe Ritalin
Parents and students now have an absolute right to decline to prescribe Ritalin under the provisions of 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(25)
(separate webpage)

(same page) General Information on Facing the School Administration
Includes information on attempts by school personnel to circumvent 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(25)

Adults with ADD or ADHD

Adult use of Ritalin or any other drug is a completely different issue. If an adult takes a drug, be it a coffee, alcohol, strong pain relievers or illegal drugs, the adult is presumed to make an intelligent evaluation as to its use, benefits, counterindications and efficacy.


Myths About Ritalin

Confusion of the drug's efficacy with the effectiveness:
This usually takes the form of, "It has a physical effect; therefore it's indicated (as a proper form of treatment for the given condition). Not so. If it didn't have a physical effect, it would be a placebo.

A variation is the hocus-pocus theory:
"Ritalin is a stimulant, but in the case of ADD it calms the patient down. If the patient did not have ADD, it would have an opposite effect."
WHERE did that one come from? Not from reputable medical literature. What is this - a magic drug? This theory belongs with beads and rattles. (Ritalin is a stimulant used to calm the patient down, much as coffee relaxes people. That has little or nothing to do with the ADD condition.)

Specifically, there are some drugs and medications which have this effect. Heartworm preventative medication administered to dogs testing positive for heartworm is dangerous. (The reason is that the dying parasites of an already-infected dog can impede circulation.) Certain antimigraine drugs should only be taken prior to the headache stage of a migraine attack. But to say that a general purpose antidepressant/stimulant exhibits such qualities is at best disingenuous.

It helps school performance
Its efficacy is in reducing a tendency toward inattentiveness. This is quite distinct from skill development. It does have the advantage of making life easier for the teacher, especially in a large classroom environment.

The use of an antidepressant-stimulant is required for my child to stay in school.

The only thing the school administration can do is recommend professional consultation. It's up to the parent to chose a professional. Then the onus is on the school to either follow the professional's advise or legally explain why the professional is wrong.

If you chose the professional recommended by the school administrator, expect the worst.

NOTE:   As provided by the IDEA Reauthorization Act, at 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(25) - Prohibition on mandatory medication, it is illegal for a school district to require a child to obtain a prescription for a substance covered by the Controlled Substances Act (e.g., R-ball; Adderal) as a condition for attending school. This applies to all students of a school receiving funds under IDEA, which includes all public schools. This Federal prohibition applies to all students; not just those falling under IDEA.

One Person's Experience

... from the "other side of the cloud"

The Oracle of the Ring

The high use of Ritalin is tied to a relationship between the teacher, "Resource Room" counselors and those psychiatrists who work with the counselors.

The teacher is encouraged by the "Resource Room" counselors to send "problem" children to the counselors for analysis. If the psychiatrist doesn't return the child with a script for an antidepressant-stimulant drug, the psychiatrist doesn't get further recommendations.

Oh yes -- the "Resource Room" returns to the teacher a sedated pupil!

NOTE: " Those tactics have been made illegal by the IDEA Reauthorization Act, at 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(25) - Prohibition on mandatory medication.
I was surprised to see that this particular section of the law appears to track the language in this webpage!

When is it Necessary?

Watch Neurotypicalism Everyday in veoh.c om (link to Christschool's videos)

When it's the Wrong Drug

ADHD can coexist with some conditions, such as autism (Asperger's Syndrone and other autism spectrum conditions). Ritalin may adversely affect people on the spectrum, so it helps to obtain advise of an expert in autism spectrum conditions first. (Generally autism is not "treated" with drugs or otherwise; it's a personality type!)

Tale of Two Cities

When I moved to Seattle it became apparent that there were substantially less kids given antidepressant-stimulants. I believe the reason is cultural:
  1. The parents in Seattle are less likely to blindly accept a prescription recommendation from a school administrator.
  2. There is a bias in Seattle against drugging kids.
  3. If pressured to have the child treated, the parents in Seattle are more likely to go to a psychiatrist or psychologist of their own choosing.
  4. Alternative remedies (e.g., naturopathy) are very much mainstream in Seattle. Naturopaths generally send back prescriptions which include such items as dietary recommendations. While special meals may be outside the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (USA), removing food colourings from the cafeteria could be deemed a reasonable request. (At present the Berkley, Calif. School District is offering an all-organic meal option!)
  5. Finally, the Kurt Cobain tragedy is a too close in the minds of Seattle parents. (The lead singer of Nirvana was a Ritalin child who eventually succumbed to heroin abuse and suicide.)

If You're a Teacher

Just don't do it. The quieter classroom just isn't worth what you're doing to the kids.

Facts About Antidepressant-Stimulant Drugs

There are Three Sides to Any Story

A choice of Ritalin treatment and No therapy at all is a "false dichotomy" (sometimes called "horns of the dilemma"). The "false dichotomy" states that one must either drug the student or ignore the issues.

In some cases, one of these extremes makes (some) sense. In many cases, the student has ADHD issues, but is not at the point of inability to function. This suggests that there are usually intermediate steps that can be taken to address issues.

Addressing school issues can be either generalized or in the framework of an Public Law 94-142 - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (USA)


Is It A Cheetah? by Stephanie S. Tolan ("required reading" for any parent of a gifted child)

Why I Posted this Website ("What's the Matter Here" - lyrics by Natale Merchant)

Declining to prescribe Ritalin

Stan Protigal
Comments about this site: email me
Feel free to link to us.

site first posted 2000 -- rev 18-Jan-15 -- This page copyright 2000, 2005, Stan Protigal