Friday, May 20, 2005

Has Johnnie taken his Kiddie-Cocaine today?

So, you have a boy child and he’s a handful in school. His kindergarten teacher asks you to take him to see a doctor, to determine if said child can be diagnosed and treated for his disruptive behaviour. You see your doctor and within 10 minutes your 5-year old has become one of America’s statistics: a kid taking a prescribed methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta) or Amphetamine (Adderall).

You give him daily pills. He settles down. Teacher’s happy. Boy is easier to parent. All is good in the world.

Yeah, maybe…

But what is the message that we’re sending to (mostly) little boys when we put them on behaviour modifying drugs? We aren’t saying, “you’re my child and I love you no matter how difficult you can be.”

We aren’t saying, “you may be a handful, but I love your spunk and personality.”

No, quite the opposite. What we’re saying to all these (mostly) boys is, “you know, your personality isn’t working for us. It needs to be changed. The kid you are…well, it’s not good enough. Take this legally prescribed drug that will change you into the kid we wish we had been given.”

Sounds brutal, but really, isn’t that the message that the kid will take away, subconsciously, at least?

So the little boy turns into a rebellious pre-teen, as most kids do. He’s been taking mood-altering drugs for as long as he can remember. What moral authority does the parent of that pre-teen have to say that he shouldn’t try other mood-altering drugs, like speed or cocaine or acid?

In my opinion, the parent has no authority. The kid is already a hard drug-user and understands how much better life can be when it’s chemically altered. And odds are he knows that Ritalin is interchangeable with amphetamine and methamphetamine, and that all of them produce much the same effect as cocaine.

Think I’m being extreme? A fear-mongerer? A study at the University of California at Berkeley, which tracked 500 children for more than 25 years, found that use of methylphenidate and other stimulants in the treatment of ADHD increases the likelihood that a child in later life will take up smoking, cocaine, and other stimulants. (Some Harvard scientists dispute this study and claim to have found the opposite to be true – that kids who don’t get medicated are more likely to be hard drug users as adults…Harvard…Berkeley…who to trust??)

Here are a few stats from the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse to think about (you can find the sources of the data at the GDCADA website linked above):

  • Between 30 and 50 percent of adolescents in drug treatment centers report Ritalin use.
  • Ritalin ranks in the top 10 most frequently reported controlled pharmaceuticals stolen from licensed handlers.
  • Reports from students and faculty on college campuses show Ritalin used as a study aid and party drug in the same manner that amphetamine was used on campuses in the 1960s.

Does it make you pause and wonder whether drugging a hyper 5-year old is really a good idea in the long-run?

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