Ritalin and ADHD

Professor JS Werry deserves thanks for his contribution in these pages regarding the present use/abuse of methylphenidate (Ritalin) and ADHD.

Despite the Professor’s reassurances regarding the reality of ADHD, I’m afraid I remain an unconvinced sceptic.

Perhaps Professor Werry could explain where ADHD comes from. It certainly wasn’t a feature of our lives in the fifties and sixties, and now millions of young children worldwide, many of them under 10, are being treated for many years of their lives with a powerful amphetamine-like drug for a “non-disease” epidemic.

Time magazine in its (admittedly dated) July 18, 1994 cover story reported that many European countries, notably France and England, have only 1/10 as many ADHD cases as the USA. Japan seems to have little experience of ADHD at all – yet it has been termed “the educational disorder of the 1990s.” The USA has experienced a four-fold increase in ADHD since 1990.

Contrary to Professor Werry’s assurances, academics are by no means united over ADHD and its treatment with methylphenidate/Ritalin. Indeed, an increasing number of professionals decry this alarming and controversial trend of labelling children with this psychiatric condition.

One of the dissenters is Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., former special education teacher and author of The Myth of the ADD Child. Armstrong strongly questions the rush to label a child having problems in school as “ADHD.” He asks how ADHD can be a “mental disorder” when its symptoms are so selectively displayed – for example when an ADHD child is internally motivated to focus – as when deeply engrossed in a video game – the inability to pay attention is apparently not present.

I would be very interested to find out whether a diagnosis of ADHD at an early age has any bearing on later youth suicide, whether ADHD children are more or less likely to come from a dysfunctional family background, and the reason for the apparent prevalence of ADHD in some countries and not others. The overwhelming preponderance of young males in the statistics is also of concern.

Mike Houlding, Mt Maunganui

Possum Peppering

Perhaps John Welch is a little unfair to the Green Party when he condemns them for claiming that burnt possum testicles deter possums from eating vegetation. As a doctor, he will know that removing testicles not only annoys the possum, but also reduces its chances of reproduction.

The Green Party does not go far enough. If they would guarantee to remove every testicle from every possum in this country, they would certainly get my vote. the whole exercise would give relief to our forests, and possibly also to the female possums, who in one possum generation would die childless but lonely. (Abridged.)

David L Smith, Titirangi

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