Last September I sent you an e-Alert about a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association with this shocking headline: “Ritalin Acts Much Like Cocaine.” I still find it disturbing every time I think about it. But I’ve just come across additional information about Ritalin, and I’m afraid the news is even worse.
It seems that no matter how insidious and manipulative the corporate drug culture is, they can always find a way to top themselves.
If you have children or grandchildren, then I’m sure you’ve heard of Ritalin, the brand name for methylphenidate. This is the drug most commonly prescribed to children (and occasionally adults) to address Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is the clinical term for any impulsive or hyperactive behavior deemed to be developmentally inappropriate. One and a half million American children take this drug every day. To me that’s staggering. Imagine: enough children to fill 30 major league baseball parks, each of them given a dose of Ritalin as they pass through the turnstiles. Considering how little is actually known about how Ritalin works and its long term effects, this is a national disgrace.
But now it gets worse
Last month, Noven Pharmaceuticals announced it had completed the final phase of a clinical trial in preparation to file a New Drug Application with the FDA. They hope that quick approval will put their product on the market before the beginning of the 2003 school year. The new product: MethyPatch.
That’s right: a Ritalin patch. Just paste it on your child every morning before school, and throughout the day it administers a time-released dose of Ritalin. Forget those annoying pills. Forget the inconvenience of a school nurse having to deliver a dose to your child in the middle of the school day. Slap on the patch and, rest assured, your child will not behave in a developmentally inappropriate, impulsive or hyperactive manner for the next 24 hours.
Noven says their patch is “comfortable” and “well suited to active lifestyles.” Ah, the marketing rhetoric has already begun. Just imagine the photo of the “active lifestyle” family that will appear in the information literature that comes with MethyPatch – a smiling Mom and Dad, maybe they’re wearing workout sweats (active!), and two smiling, comfortably composed children. And what’s wrong with this picture? Just one thing: the kids are on drugs more powerful than cocaine.
This is where it gets sticky
In that e-Alert I sent in September (“Are we raising a generation of addicts?”), the JAMA study concluded that methylphenidate is a more powerful stimulant than cocaine. So if it provides a cocaine-like stimulation, why aren’t kids abusing Ritalin? Unfortunately they are.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that a Drug Enforcement Administration study of Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Indiana found that as many as one-half of the teens in drug-treatment centers said they had used Ritalin to get high. And because Ritalin taken orally doesn’t provide instant stimulation, many of these young people are crushing their Ritalin pills and inhaling the powder – just like cocaine. The CSM article goes on to detail incidents of children selling their dosages to other children, and other students pressuring their peers to share their pills. The DEA now lists Ritalin in its Top 10 list of most often stolen prescription drugs.
Before I read the CSM article I wondered if wearing the MethyPatch might become a stigma, marking kids as difficult or inferior. Now I wonder just the opposite. If Ritalin has taken a place in the drug culture as a controlled substance that’s out of control, it’s easy to imagine how the MethyPatch might be considered “cool” – not a stigma, but a badge of rebellion against a system of parents, teachers, doctors, and pharmaceutical corporations that told these kids to “just say no,” while drugging them daily.
If the MethyPatch is put on the market before the school year starts in 2003, I wonder how much it will be selling for in the schoolyard by the end of the school year, 2004?
The seductiveness of convenience
Here’s what disturbs me most about the MethyPatch: Knowing that parents, faced with the considerable demands of coping with a “hyperactive” child, will be more inclined to turn to Ritalin because of the convenience of the patch. Parents already feel pressured to choose Ritalin — by teachers, school administrators, doctors, and other parents who have chosen to medicate their own children. Making it a slap-on solution makes it more likely that they might give in to that pressure.
But there are effective alternatives that parents often never even hear about. HSI panelist Dr. Allan Spreen has devoted an entire chapter to children’s behavioral concerns in his book “Nutritionally Incorrect.” He writes that over 90 percent of children’s behavioral problems can be attributed to food allergies, chemical sensitivities, malnourishment, and even high levels of toxic metals in their tissues. There are plenty of other practitioners out there who believe that most cases of ADHD (and other behavior problems) can be addressed nutritionally and naturally. Parents need more information on the alternatives, and encouragement to try them, before resorting to prescription drugs like Ritalin.
Obviously these are difficult and deeply personal decisions. If you have a grandchild who is currently on Ritalin, please pass this e-mail on to his or her parents. If you’re a teacher, and you feel the pressure from all sides to encourage the use of medication, I hope you’ll discuss these issues and alternate treatments with your colleagues, administrators and the parents of your students. And if you have a child who shows signs of hyperactivity or impulsiveness, please consider nutritional changes and supplement treatments. You may find that they address the
“Methylphenidate Patch Closer to FDA Approval” ADDitude Magazine: additudemag.com
“Are we raising a generation of addicts?” E-Alert, 9/29/01
“Schoolyard Hustlers’ New Drug: Ritalin” Christian Science Monitor, October 31, 2000
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