Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

How to Score Ritalin - NZ Follows US Trend


How to Score Ritalin – Point of View with Barbara Sumner Burstyn

So the kids have wised up and following the US trend, have started dealing their Ritalin in the schoolyard. In New Zealand Ritalin retails for around $5 a tablet while in the States the street value is considerably higher – the equivalent of nearly NZ$ 20.00.

And just like in the States, where it’s estimated that six million kids are taking the mind-altering drug, New Zealand police have become concerned that parents are pressuring doctors to prescribe Ritalin for their children. Not only as an antidote to the annoyances of parenting but so they can sell it themselves on a growing black market.

So perhaps you’re also making the connection, wondering how your kid could present with ADHD to help with the family income.

It turns out its not that hard. New Zealand uses the DSM-IV, the US Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, to help diagnose ADHD. In descending order your doctor is looking for at least eight of these fourteen things: A child who often fidgets with hands or squirms in his seat, has difficulty remaining seated and is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli. He needs to show difficulty waiting turn in group situations and he needs to often blurt out answers to questions before they have been completed. He needs to sometimes have difficulty following through on instructions such as his chores or homework and often have difficulty sustaining attention in activities, shifting from one incomplete activity to another. He has to have difficulty playing quietly, he must talk excessively, interrupt or butt into other kids games, not seem to listen to what is said, often losing things at school or home and of course he has to engage in physically dangerous activities without considering possible consequences, like running into the street without looking.

Easy? You bet. Show me a kid that doesn’t present with at least half of these ‘symptoms’, especially before the age of seven – which is the optimum time for diagnosis and he’ll be your oddity.

But if you think it’s difficult for a doctor accustomed to dealing in science to suddenly have to make a diagnosis based on judgment alone imagine how hard it’s been for the scientists doing clinical research into the causes of ADHD, working as they must, with mainly subjective data, cultural and individual perceptions, values and opinion. In fact, only last year the Washington Post reported that they haven’t actually tested Ritalin on at least one group of children it's routinely prescribed for, the under six year olds. Seems testing mind altering drugs on little kids was a just a little too sticky.

But outside of Canada, the U.S.A, Australia and New Zealand very few doctors make the diagnosis at all. On the European continent a drug for kids with side effects such as insomnia, decreased appetite, stomach-ache, headache and dizziness is unacceptable. As far back as 1976 Shrag and Divorky, in their book, The Myth of the Hyperactive Child, traced the origin of the diagnosis to advertising campaigns run by drug companies which manufacture cures for social problems.

More recently high profile American lawyer Richard Scruggs accused Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., makers of the drug Ritalin and the American Psychiatric Association of conspiring to promote an overly broad diagnosis of ADHD with the result that it’s given to too many youngsters.

Despite this, Ritalin is fast becoming a widely accepted parenting tool, a medical substitute for that most precious parental commodity; time. Canadian child psychologist and author of The Omnipotent Child Dr Thomas P. Millar says the behaviours on the ADHD checklist are no more symptoms than a rash, or a cough, or sore feet. “These behaviours are common and normal in preschool children. In older children they are more appropriately called immaturities. Getting over immaturity is called growing up.” He goes on to state the obvious, that it seems many parents have forgotten in their rush to embrace the latest wonder drug. “Children grow up when they are parented properly, that is nurtured and trained in a fashion appropriate for their temperament.”

But perhaps the scariest part of the Ritalin epidemic (as if there could be anything scarier than parental abdication of parenting) is the increasing pressure schools are putting parents under. All the behaviours on the checklist are guaranteed to irritate even the most patient teacher but a child on Ritalin becomes submissive, passive and socially inhibited. Perfect schoolroom material. So much so that earlier this year a New York State judge ordered parents to resume giving their seven year old son Ritalin after they’d stopped dosing him, fearing it was harming him. Their school board reported them to the Department of Social Services, which filed child abuse charges for medical neglect. To avoid having their son removed from them the couple reinstated his court ordered doping.

Not even the largest advocate group set up to protect suffers of this supposed illness is immune. Recently it was revealed that Children and Adults with ADHD received more than a million dollars in funding from the makers of Ritalin. But last week, the group, vocal promoters of Ritalin, did a dramatic about face. They agreed with the National Institute of Mental Health that many doctors are misdiagnosing kids with ADHD and turning hospitals and clinics into pill mills.

In New Zealand Ritalin prescriptions are running at an all time high. 72,186 prescriptions were written to March this year up from 49,811 in 2000. So it’s clear that in this trend at least we’re not lagging behind the US. Now if we can just get the street price up a bit more we might even have a nice black market earner for parents as well.

Copyright October 2002 Barbara Sumner Burstyn.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Reese Erlich: Foreign Correspondent: Trump Plays Both Sides Against The Middle

Is he a hawk? Is he a peacenik? The President keeps us guessing . By Reese Erlich President Donald Trump has convinced Republican isolationists and hawks that he supports their views. That’s a neat trick, since the two groups hold opposing positions. ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Waiting For The Old Bailey: Julian Assange And Britain’s Judicial Establishment

On September 7, Julian Assange will be facing another round of gruelling extradition proceedings, in the Old Bailey, part of a process that has become a form of gradual state-sanctioned torture. The US Department of Justice hungers for their man. The More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Sorry Plight Of The International Education Sector

Tourism and international education have been two of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. They’re both key export industries. Yet the government response to them has been strikingly different. There has been nothing beyond a few words of ministerial condolence and a $51.6 million package (details below) to get the sector through the pandemic...
More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Google’s Open Letter: Fighting Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code

Tech giants tend to cast thin veils over threats regarding government regulations. They are also particularly concerned by those more public spirited ones, the sort supposedly made for the broader interest. Google has given us an example of this ... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Trump’s Current Chances Of Re-Election

By now it seems clear that National have no fresh ideas to offer for how New Zealand could avoid the Covid-19 economic crisis. As in the past, National has set an arbitrary 30% ratio of government debt to GDP that it aims to achieve “in a decade or so,” ... More>>

The Conversation: Rogue Poll Or Not, All The Signs Point To A Tectonic Shift In New Zealand Politics

Richard Shaw AAP(various)/NZ Greens (CC-BY-SA)/The Conversation Strong team. More jobs. Better economy. So say the National Party’s campaign hoardings. Only thing is, last Sunday’s Newshub-Reid Research poll – which had support for the Labour ... More>>

The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising

The United States is famed for doing things, not to scale, but off it. Size is the be-all and end-all, and the coronavirus is now doing its bit to assure that the country remains unrivalled in the charts of infection . In time, other unfortunates may well ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face

Be wary what you protest about. The modern moral constabulary are out, and they are assisted by their Silicon Valley friends in the Social Media club. Should you dare take a stand on anything, especially in a dramatic way, you will be found out ... More>>