The first long-term study on the effect of Ritalin™ on preschoolers has been published in the Evil Empire. Not surprisingly, considering the prevailing tendency to prefer pharmacological rather than holistic approaches to behaviour modification, the study concluded that, whilst risks do exist, the stimulant can be effective at dampening the ‘hyperactivity’ of some of the youngsters. Whilst the studies authors stress the effectiveness of this drug in some cases, the study concludes that fully four in ten of its subjects experienced complications from the use of methylphenidate (the drug’s generic name). In eleven percent of the cases, the side effects were so severe that the children had to drop out of the study completely. Overall, the drugged children grew less and gained weight less rapidly than is normal for their age range. These findings ought to be enough to result in loud public calls to put an end to the drugging of children, yet only a few prominent voices are saying this and these voices are largely drowned out by the pro-doping lobby. Whatever happened to the Hippocratic Oath? I thought that doctors were supposed to not do harm, yet it is obvious that many children are indeed being harmed by this drug. The explosion of prescriptions of this drug in the Evil Empire over the last decade (it has been in use for forty years) and a half, not only for preschoolers but for minors in general, is nothing less than institutionalised abuse.
The study’s authors plead their case for drugging, saying that the children involved exhibited extreme behaviours such as “hanging from ceiling fans, jumping off slides or playing with fire”. Indeed, these behaviours can be very dangerous for young children to engage in. I wonder, however, why these children were doing these things? How much (or little) exercise were the children receiving? How much sugar were the children eating and were they receiving a balanced diet? How much love and attention were they receiving from their families? Could these behaviours have been a call for attention from children not receiving enough or a reaction of the children to the regimented indoctrination institutions they were being forced to attend? Were they protesting against having too much expected of them? Were these children simply sick and tired of being forced to be like everybody else and sit quietly and submit to their indoctrination? Rather than drugging children into submission, I think that the educational establishment needs to be re-engineered to meet the needs and desires of children rather than the desires and expectations of adults.
What is methylphenidate anyway? It is a stimulant, very similar in structure to cocaine. It is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning that there is a potential for abuse due to its addictiveness. It is already widely abused by folks who crush the tablets up and snort them like cocaine. Its side effects include sleeping difficulties, appetite loss, irritability, nervousness and a host of other unpleasant things. Five percent of children on this drug report hallucinations involving worms, snakes or insects. In other words, this is a truly nasty substance to be forcing children, whose behaviour does not meet society’s expectations, to be taking, especially when, over the forty years that this drug has been around, not a single study has ever been conducted on its long-term effects. If we as society do not like the way that certain children are behaving, we need to be more creative in discovering why they are behaving as they do and finding outlets for their energy that are not destructive. Drugging them into submission is a blunt “ and dangerous ” object to wield against them.