Tired Boy Sitting At A Desk
Tired Boy Sitting At A DeskThinkstock

(*Names have been changed)

Leah shared the following story with me:*

“I was very upset when my husband told me that he took Ritalin as a child. But recently my mother-in-law told me a part of the story that was unknown to all involved until now.”

This is her mother-in law’s story:

During my son’s elementary school years, the school administration insisted that we put him on medication for ADHD. We visited a psychiatrist who was more than happy to diagnose my son with ADHD and prescribe Ritalin. I bought a bottle of the drug, took it home and poured its contents into the garbage. Then, unbeknownst to anyone (including my husband and kids) I replaced the pills with vitamins. I knew what I was up against, and I didn’t want anyone else to have to lie, so it was my own little secret.

Eventually, the school told me that they wanted us to increase my son’s dose. The second pill would have to be administered in the middle of the school day by the nurse. Understanding that the nurse would realize that the vitamin I had been giving my son was not Ritalin, I told the school that I would bring him the pill each day.

For the next year, I left work in the middle of the day, drove a half hour to my son’s school to give him the “Ritalin” (vitamin), and then made the long trip back to work again. Finally I told the school that my son’s condition had improved and I wanted to have him reevaluated, to which they consented. I found another psychiatrist who determined that my child no longer needed the drugs.”

There is no question that stimulants such as Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin etc. have a powerful effect on many children. Parents tell me that their children are performing better in school; they even claim that the child’s self-esteem is improving. I wonder if the child would agree that they feel better about themselves on medication. Many children are very uncomfortable with the perception that they need a pill to attain self-control.

ADHD drugs are among the most widely prescribed psychiatric medications today. Countless mothers have told me, “I didn’t want to put my child on medication, but I had no choice. It was either that or my child would get kicked out of school!” I ask parents: if you found out that students or teachers in your child’s school were sharing speed or cocaine, how would you feel about sending your kids to that school?

How has medicating children into compliance become the educational norm? Stimulants like Adderrall, Ritaiin, etc. are addictive narcotics in the same class as stimulant street-drugs, like speed, and even cocaine. We must ask our doctors and educators: what is the difference between giving children a mind-altering prescription drug, and a mind-altering street drug?

While studying pharmacology during graduate school, our professor reported that the generally accepted belief among manufacturers is that when medications of an addictive nature were used therapeutically (such as Codeine or Morphine for surgical pain), they would not cause addiction. The assertion was that if these same drugs were used on the street, they could lead to drug addiction.

At the time, I was both astounded and perplexed by this. I wondered: how do the mind and body know not to become dependent on these drugs just because they were accompanied by a doctor’s prescription? Now I realize that the manufacturer’s reassurance is totally false. Even when administered according to doctor’s orders, people become addicted to prescription psychiatric drugs and pain medications all the time.

The most disturbing thing about giving psychiatric drugs to children is that they cannot do a proper risk-benefit assessment for themselves. They are not the ones to decide whether taking the drug would be right for them. Drugs which strongly influence a child’s behavior and emotions are administered to children supposedly in their own best interest. However, it is the child who will suffer from the side-effects and withdrawal symptoms of the drug. He may even become addicted to a drug that he never asked for.

Coming next week: Why stimulant drugs like Ritalin are highly addictive…

Yael Tusk, M.S.O.M. is a general practitioner of Chinese Medicine in Jerusalem. She has been treating both adults and children for over a decade. Feel free to contact her at [email protected] to schedule an appointment phone consultation or to receive her free newsletter. Look out for her upcoming myth-busting book on health.