Could your child’s birthday be to blame for his ADHD diagnosis? Maybe, especially if he’s one of the youngest students in the class.
In soon-to-be published research in the Journal of Health Economics,health economist Todd Elder, PhD, of Michigan State University, East Lansing, says as many as 1 million children in the U.S. may have been misdiagnosed with ADHD, simply because of their age and maturity level. That ought to be terrifying news, when you consider that the “cure” for ADHD is one of the most commonly overprescribed drugs in America — Methylphenidate, the generic name for a group of drugs that includes Ritalin, Concerta, Metadate CD and others. About 29 million prescriptions were written last year in the United States for Ritalin and similar drugs to treat attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, 23 million of them for children.
While kids around the country are popping them like candy, few parents know the very real risks associated with these psychotropic medications such as:
- A 2005 study showed that Ritalin and other stimulant drugs given to children might increase their risk of cancer later in life.
- In a 70-week study, preschoolers on Ritalin, grew about half an inch less and gained about 2 pounds less than expected.
- A University of Buffalo study proved that Ritalin has the potential for causing long-lasting changes in brain cell structure and function.
- Hostility, aggression, anxiety, depression, and paranoia and suicide are potential side effects of Ritalin.
Matthew Smith’s parents wish they had known more about Ritalin before agreeing to give it to their son. Fourteen year old Matthew suddenly died on March 21, 2000. The cause of death was determined to be from the long-term (age 7-14) use of Ritalin. According to the Chief Pathologist of Oakland County, Michigan, upon autopsy, Matthew’s heart showed clear signs of small vessel damage caused from the use of Methylphenidate (Ritalin). In fact, according to his father, the certificate of death reads: “Death caused from Long Term Use of Methylphenidate, Ritalin.”
And the reason Matthew was originally placed on Ritalin? In first grade, Matthew was an active child who wasn’t as mature as some of his peers. That immaturity cost him his life.
Elder’s study found that the youngest children in kindergarten were 60% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their oldest classmates and were more likely to be on ADHD medications than the older kids. In gambling circles, those would be known as bankable odds. One in 100 preschoolers is already on Ritalin. That works out to 70,000+ children between the ages of 3 and 4 on a daily dose of psychotropic drugs. I’ll leave it to science fiction writers to imagine what the long term consequences might be.
What are we doing to our children?
We punish our kids for being active, playful, and sociable — all of the things we should want our kids to be. Maybe the problem isn’t our kids. Maybe the problem is that too many schools are demanding that we drug our kids into uniform, passive submission.
All I can say is, “Thank goodness Ritalin wasn’t in use during the 30’s, or we’d never have the Little Rascals to enjoy today. Every single one of them would have been considered ADHD and drugged into boring conformity.”