Ritalin in 3 year olds – Ellen Isaacs, MD

New York Times Magazine
Sunday, Dec 8, 2002
Re: Ritalin in 3 yr olds

Although raising some doubts about medicating 3 year olds, your article basically purports to show that medication is safe and necessary for some children. But several other troubling points need to be addressed. At the age of three, neuroreceptors in the brain are actively developing, and no one knows what long term effects drugs that affect this system may have. Nor is it known what the long term effects are on older children, or if drugs cause long term academic or social benefit. Although once an “illness” of white middle class boys, the ratio of white to black children diagnosed with ADHD is falling, from 2.9 in 1987 to 1.4 in 1996; overall, the prevalence of ADHD has increased 20 fold in 20 years.

In some areas of the country over 33% of young boys are on Ritalin. Especially in inner cities, Ritalin is increasingly being forced on children whose behavior upsets teachers, under threat of expulsion from school or even removal from the home.

The physicians who study Ritalin at Columbia/Presbyterian and most other institutions are largely supported by the drug companies who make ADHD meds, and the profits from these medications are soaring. We must beware the huge industry which is not only promoting its own wealth but enabling schools to blame many of the problems engendered by large classes and too few teachers and supports on the so-called diseased brains of the children.

Ellen Isaacs, MD.

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