Ritalin and Russian roulette


Posted: February 5, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern

=A9 2005 WorldNetDaily.com

It is estimated that in the United States between 4 million and 8
million children are on Ritalin, the drug being used to change the
behavior of children afflicted with a disease or condition called
attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

We already know that the long-term use of Ritalin can be fatal. In
March of 2000, a 14-year-old ninth-grader, Matthew Smith, dropped dead
of a heart attack while skateboarding. He had been on Ritalin since
the first grade. And in 1994, the very popular singer and songwriter Kurt
Cobain committed suicide at age 27. He was known as a "Ritalin child."

What parents are not being told by psychiatrists who prescribe the
drug and the school nurses who give it to the kids is that taking Ritalin
is like playing Russian roulette, simply because nobody can be sure what
the side-effects will be.

Recently, I happened to come across a copy of the latest Physicians'
Desk Reference on pharmaceuticals. It lists all of the drugs available
to physicians and provides the drug's clinical pharmacology,
indications and contraindications, warnings, precautions, adverse
reactions, etc. So I looked up Ritalin. Its generic name is
methylphenidate hydrochloride. It comes in two forms, a regular tablet
and a time-release tablet. It was described as follows:

    Ritalin is a mild central nervous system stimulant. The mode of
action in man is not completely understood, but Ritalin presumably
activates the brain stem arousal system and cortex to produce its
stimulant effect. There is neither specific evidence which clearly
establishes the mechanism whereby Ritalin produces its mental and
behavioral effects in children, nor conclusive evidence regarding how
these effects relate to the condition of the central nervous system.

So we really don't know exactly how the drug works in the brain, but
the book warns:

    Ritalin should not be used in children under 6 years, since safety
and efficacy in this age group have not been established. Sufficient
data on safety and efficacy of long-term use of Ritalin in children
are not yet available. Although a causal relationship has not been
established, suppression of growth (i.e., weight gain and/or height)
has been reported with the long-term use of stimulants in children.
Clinical experience suggests that in psychotic children,
administration of Ritalin may exacerbate symptoms of behavior disturbance and thought

Was the student killer at Columbine who took Ritalin psychotic? If so,
he should not have been given the drug.

As for adverse reactions, otherwise known as side effects, this is
what the Ritalin user may also experience: Nervousness, insomnia, skin
rash, urticaria (itching, burning, stinging, smooth patches usually red),
fever, arthralgia (pain in a joint), exfoliative (flaking) dermatitis,
erythema (skin redness), multiforme with histopathological
(microscopic changes in tissues), findings of necrotizing (death or decay of
tissues), vasculitis (blood vessels) and thrombocytopenic purpura
(purplish patches), anorexia, nausea, dizziness, palpitations,
headache, dyskinesis (impairment of body movements), drowsiness, blood
pressure and pulse changes both up and down, tachycardia (rapid
heartbeat), angina, cardiac arrhythmia, abdominal pain, and weight
loss during prolonged therapy. There have been rare reports of Tourette's
syndrome (tics). Toxic psychosis has been reported.

If that isn't playing Russian roulette with a child's health, I don't
know what is. Note the number of cardiac side effects, probably caused
by the constriction of blood vessels. That's what probably caused the
heart attack that killed Matthew Smith. We only hear about the worst
tragedies. Skin rashes, headaches, dizziness, nausea and palpitations
don't make the headlines; they just make the users miserable.

Why would anyone subject a child to a drug with so many possible
harmful side effects simply to "cure" an attention problem? How about
creating classrooms with more order and fewer distractions. The kind
of chaos that now exists in American primary schools is a result of the
new classroom configuration that creates attention problems.

You couldn't possibly have attention deficit disorder in the kind of
classrooms that existed when I went to school back in the 1930s and
'40s. In those days, the students sat at desks bolted to the floor
arranged in straight rows. The walls were generally bare, with no
distractions. The teacher was the focus of attention, and we were all
taught the same thing. No individual education plans. And the teacher
used the most rational and effective methods of instruction developed
over the centuries. It was an education system that produced what Tom
Brokaw called the greatest generation.

In other words, they knew how to educate well. We really don't have to
re-invent the wheel. But try telling that to today's educators, for
whom the successes of the past simply don't exist.

Dr. Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight books on education,
including: "Is Public Education Necessary?" "NEA: Trojan Horse in
American Education," "The Whole Language/OBE Fraud" and
A Parents Guide to Teaching Children." His books are available on
Amazon.com. Back issues of his incisive newsletter, The Blumenfeld
Education Letter, are available online.