Let’s get one thing straight about the Ritalin and Adderall that are taken by millions of schoolchildren in the Western world. They are not just amphetamines – that is, speed – but an especially mellow, user-friendly form of speed. They are highly prized recreational drugs. High school students prescribed them for ADD or ADHD have no problem at all selling them to classmates.
In The Fix I describe the time I took Adderall in America. It blew my head off – turned me into a gibbering (but happy) idiot:
The blues didn’t hit me until the next day – and took the best part of a week to banish.
And this is what they give to restless nine-year-olds. Defenders of the practice say kids with attention deficit who take Adderall and Ritalin, another amphetamine-based stimulant, are given the gift of concentration without the potentially addictive high. They don’t experience the chemical thrill I felt because their brain deficiency cancels out the chemical thrill I experienced.
I’ve always been suspicious of this argument, so I was interested to read, in January 2012, an article in the New York Times by L. Alan Sroufe, a retired professor of child psychology who has closely monitored the pharmaceutical treatment of children with ADD for over 30 years. Sroufe now believes that millions of children diagnosed with ADD are being treated for brain abnormalities that they don’t actually have – that their genuine behavioural problems, which like all behaviour are governed by the brain, are often induced by environmental factors. Yes, Adderall and Ritalin calmed them down in the classroom. But, said Sroufe, the drugs have the same effect on all children, not just those diagnosed with attention deficit.
Also, like anyone else who takes stimulant drugs, these children develop a tolerance to them. As he put it: ‘Many parents who take their children off the drugs find that behaviour worsens, which most likely confirms their belief that the drugs work. But the behaviour worsens because the children’s bodies have become adapted to the drug. Adults may have similar reactions if they suddenly cut back on coffee, or stop smoking.’
One can’t help suspecting that the children themselves worked out most of this a long time ago. They know Adderall and Ritalin can be used to get high. That’s why some of them claim to have ADD or ADHD: the symptoms aren’t exactly hard to fake, after all. And that’s why some kids with legitimate prescriptions are happy to sell their pills to classmates – or to let their mother or father ‘borrow’ a few. Older siblings, too, like to get hold of these drugs: what could be nicer than a mellow form of speed that enhances the experience of video games and sex?
Posted in: Drugs, Pills
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