Sally Satel in her review of NYT reporter Alan Schwarz’s book, “ADHD Nation,”
(WSJ 9/12/16) describes the long simmering plague of American children who have
been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and take
pills to treat the disorder.
tells us --- in one sentence of her 1000 word review --- that “Mr. Schwarz
readily concedes that many children have benefited from the medications for
ADHD.” I am surprised that Mr. Schwarz has made this concession given some of
his previous articles on ADHD:“The Rise
of the Good Grade Pill” (NYT 6/9/2012); and “Drowned in the Stream of
Prescriptions” (NYT 2/2/13).
experience of forty years as a child psychologist, most parents are leery about
giving psychiatric drugs to their children --- such as Ritalin or anything
else. In fact, it’s hard for kids to comply with eight days of required
antibiotic treatment for an infection. There is no questions that stimulant medication significantly improves the social, emotional, and academic lives of many children, adolescents, and adults. This view fits my experience and more importantly, the many years of scientific research.
journal a few weeks ago (8/17/16: “Medicating Children With ADHD Keeps Them
Safer”) psychologist Susan Pinker describes a 2015 study of over 710,000 Danish
children finding that 10- to 12-year-olds with ADHD were far more likely to be
injured than other children their age. With drug treatment, the number of
emergency room visits by children with ADHD was cut in half – some plague.
That doctors promiscuously drug
children whose problems stem from temperamental sensitives rather than
psychiatric disorders, assisted by intolerant, label craving teachers --- is wildly
exaggerated, a view helped along by the anti-psychiatric medication crowd ---
that includes the wealthy Scientology cult --- claiming that the biology of mental
illness is a myth. If it is a myth, it is a myth with a strong genetic
Symptoms of ADHD ---
restlessness, distractibility, and impulsivity --- must be chronic (date back to childhood) and pervasive (occur at home, school, and with peers) to fit the
A comprehensive psychological
and medical evaluation is needed to diagnose ADHD or any other psychiatric disorder.
Until we have a medical test to identify ADHD, no amount
of scientific knowledge – and there is plenty, clinical experience, or
testimonies from parents and youngsters will convince some citizens of the
validity of the neurophysiological disorders such as ADHD.
Most children, adolescents, and
adults with ADHD and coexisting conditions never get help --- and some are not
lucky enough to get to the emergency room.
I appreciate the concerns
raised in Dr. Satel’s review. Children should be protected from the risks of
taking medications they don’t need.
I hope this protection does not
help to generate the side effects of growing up with untreated ADHD --- side
effects such as school failure, depression, delinquency, substance abuse and
9/9/16. My letter about Dr. Susan Pinker's article, "Medication Children With ADHD Keeps Them Safer."
Dear WSJ Editors,
ADHD is a well-known disorder that is not well known.
Susan Pinker highlights recent research that medication for
ADHD can reduce risky behavior during adolescence (WSJ 8/17/16). As La Rochefoucauld
notes: “Youth is one long intoxication: it is reason in a fever.”
Her article is a breath of fresh air amid the many stale
national media headlines that have attacked the validity of ADHD and slammed
the used of medication.
These headlines have included: “Ritalin Gone Wrong”;
“Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill”; “Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions”;
and “A Nation of Kids on Speed.” These articles are enough to scare any parents
from treating ADHD.
Many people still believe that ADHD is a myth, promoted by
pharmaceutical companies who lobby doctors to promiscuously drug children whose
problems stem from temperamental sensitivities rather than psychiatric
disorders, assisted by intolerant, label-craving teachers.
In my 40 years of clinical experience, this view is
nonsense, a view helped along by the anti-medication crowd – claiming the
biology of mental illness is a myth. If it is a myth, it is a myth with a
genetic component. Many people yearn to get off the roller-coaster of
distractibility, disorganization, trouble doing nothing, and impulsivity often
leading to substance abuse.
Until we have a medical test to identify ADHD, no amount of
scientific knowledge, clinical experience, or testimonies from parents and
youngsters will convince some citizens of the validity of neuropsychological
disorders such as ADHD.
As Susan Pinker so eloquently notes, growing up with
untreated ADHD may lead to the side effects of school failure, depression,
delinquency, accidental death, and suicide --- and treatment, that works, is