Pros and Cons of Ritalin

Pros and Cons of Ritalin

A Parent & Teacher Respond
To Accusations of Widespread Overuse

by Laura Pickford Ramirez

Last month's article on Chemical Strait-Jacketing: How Kids are Drugged into Submission by Johann Christoph Arnold, generated responses from parents and teachers which led to this article on the pros and cons of Ritalin.

Since my intention is to provide you with thought-provoking articles that help you make intelligent choices for your children, I present you with two reader perspectives which highlight areas of the debate that were previously left untouched. The two sides represent some of the pros and cons of Ritalin, especially with regard to using drugs to control the symptoms of ADHD or ADD.

The first response is from Dr. Rose, a teacher and colleague of the Creative Problem-Solving Institute. His letter highlights some of the dilemmas faced by teachers today of which I suspect many parents are unaware.

Pros and Cons of Ritalin

Here's Dr. Rose:

Laura, Ritalin is a serious problem. And our schools are similar to prisons, but the teachers are locked up with inmates. Also, the pressures on teachers are increasing so that anything that takes away from "Teaching to the TESTS" is considered wasted time. I believe the only "natural" things for children are art, music, drama, physical education, playing games, following their interests, and socializing (talking, laughing, touching each other).

These are part of my classroom, but most of my colleagues do not have the experience to do the same or an understanding of what is really important for the growth of healthy children. Therefore, they need a docile population so that they can "get through" the basics each day. This means powerful coercive techniques or very clever "persuasive " techniques, which are two sides of the same coin. Persuasion is more palatable, but both work in creating docility.

Pros and Cons of Ritalin

For the most "hyper" children in our schools, Ritalin is an answer. It works in making some children more teachable, read more easily manipulated. (I took one of my children off it and he has made a major change. Working harder, more productively, and he smiles a lot. I have to honor the doctor's orders though or I could be sued. So, next week he will be back on it until I can convince the parents to speak to the doctor and to try to get him off it. (Laura's note: since the publication of this article, some of my readers have made me aware of a holistic adhd supplement that has helped their children make excellent progress in terms of increased focus and self-control. The testimonials are quite remarkable. If you have a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD and want to try something natural first, I suggest that you give Focus ADHD for Children and Adults a try. Parents have told me that it takes 1-2 weeks of using this daily supplement to notice the difference in their child, but the changes have been lasting and dramatic.If this works like parents claim it does, then we won't have to worry about articles about the pros and cons of Ritalin.)

They agree, but the school is legally obligated to follow the doctor's orders until he gives us permission to stop. What is ironic is that the diagnosis was made mostly from information provided by his previous teachers.) Laura, it's what the general population knows and wants. It's not healthy for children, but unless we make some major compromises about what we want (DEMAND - teachers whose classes do not test well can be FIRED) from our schools, Ritalin will be used more and more. (I have many books on my web site that deal with more humane schools and teaching, you may want to refer your readers to them.) Keep up the good work!

Dr. Rose

Pros and Cons of Ritalin and Laura's Response:

While I was aware that much of school was geared toward test taking, I didn't realize how intense the pressures are on teachers. While this is a side issue, it can be directly related to the pressure that teachers and principals put on parents to put their children on drugs like Ritalin.

In the August issue of "American Way" magazine, there was an article entitled, "Success for School Kids" by Judith Kirkwood from whom I take this quote:

"Be aware of high-stakes testing in schools. It used to be that parents worried mainly about grades and SAT and ACT scores. Now 48 out of 50 states have adopted education reform initiatives that include rigorous state tests that students must pass in order to move on to the next grade."

Last year during a parent-teacher conference, my son’s teacher showed me that my first grade child had scored 100 percentile in all areas of the standardized test. This was not something that I wanted my son to know. While I told him that I was pleased with how well he was doing, I knew the dangers inherent in "learning for the tests." While I want my son to do well in school, I’m more concerned about teaching him the joy of learning and how to treat others at this stage.

Thank you, Dr. Rose, for enlightening us as to how standardized tests fit into our children’s education. This should give all of us good reason to become more closely involved with how our kids are taught in school.

About Dr. Rose: Dr Rose has taught in both public and private schools and has taught all grades, children through adults.

Pros and Cons of Ritalin

Now on to another viewpoint about Ritalin. This is from Lisa, a parent whose son has experienced positive behavioral changes from taking Ritalin:

Dear Laura:

I am not happy about the negative image you have given to parents about the decision to use Ritalin or other medications that may help their child to function in an otherwise over-stimulating environment. There will always be exceptions to every rule. I accept the probability that some children are medicated out of frustration or ignorance, or misunderstanding. But my understanding of Ritalin is that it only "works" with those who need it. In normally functioning brains it makes the kids more hyper.

My son had been on Ritalin four years, before being switched to Adderall last year. He has had difficulty since birth paying attention to anyone when spoken to. He could not watch an entire commercial set let alone a half hour program. He was a late learner, learning by leaps rather than slowly or methodically. He could not play a game or work a puzzle because he was gone before the directions were given.

Medication has helped him to enjoy school and friends, which he now makes easily! He is now able to read a book, play games and collect trading cards with his friends. Just because he has to take time out of his day twice a day, to take a pill smaller than his littlest fingernail, does not make him better or worse than anyone else's child, and I for one am tired of the insinuation that he can change if he wants to. Trust me, he does want to! That is why he is willing to take the medication. Please stop trying to make parents feel guilty, we have enough to do!

Lisa - a very proud mother of a soon to be sixth grader!

Pros and Cons of Ritalin: Laura's response:

Mr. Arnold's article focused on the overuse of Ritalin and does not examine the cases in which Ritalin is used with positive results. In the third paragraph of the article, he states, "Ritalin is surely a legitimate drug for certain specific conditions. But given the threefold increase in its use in the last decade, one has to wonder if it isn't being misused as an easy cure-all for problems such as ADHD and to rein in lively children who may not have the disorder."

The threefold increase in the use of Ritalin in the last ten years is our primary concern. In light of Dr. Rose's comments, it is frightening to think that doctors and naïve parents might try to "normalize" the behavior (and thus increase the test scores) of a child who is simply active and strong-willed.

Contrary to your opinion, Ritalin is not a drug that only "works" on those who need it. Ritalin is a stimulant and like any other stimulant will causes behavioral changes in anyone who takes the drug. Some doctors believe that changes in the brain caused by Ritalin might be irreversible. Although Ritalin is a stimulant, it works to slow children down because their systems are paradoxical.

The great concern (and this is the biggest con of the pros and cons of Ritalin) is that we’re prescribing Ritalin to children who don’t need it. What they need instead is at the center of the debate and is individual to each child. Some children need a better diet (more nutritious food and less sugar), more attention, more time for unstructured play, etc, while others require individual and/or family therapy.

The use of Ritalin is a controversial subject, except in instances like yours in which your son clearly needs and benefits from the drug. No one on the planet has the right to contest the use of Ritalin in such a case.

I'm happy that Ritalin works for your son and that he seems to be a happy, well-adjusted sixth grader.

For a 100% natural supplement that improves focus and concentration and helps calm the child, we recommend this supplement which has been recommended to us by many parents. One parent wrote us to exclaim that rather than calling her about her son's bad behavior, now the teacher is calling to report how "good" he is.

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