Tale of a Pharmaco-Zombie Child

When I was a youngster I was diagnosed with ADD. Educators said I could not pay attention. They said I often got lost in my own world. I would not read what they wanted. I read my own material, usually fantasy sagas and other unpopular works of fiction. They constantly had to discipline me and complain to my mom about my attention span. As a result, they believed I needed to take a speed compound to correct my “mental illness…”

But the Ritalin addled my nervous system.

It made my little mind race. I could just sit and constantly look ahead like a statue, eyes plastered in confusion and fear. I had a superabundance of emotions overload my still maturing brain. The meth was too intense for me at such a tender age. I fought back. I pretended to take the “medication,” but spit it out often. It was hurting me, turning me off to learning and education, preparing me for a life of mindlessness.

It was not what I needed. It was not healthy. The adults were wrong. Drugging a child was not the answer. It is psychologically damaging, and possibly bad for the brain. Studies suggest that there are not any guaranteed long term positive effects of anti-ADD medications. Dr. Peter Breggin summarized this in an earlier article:

“As the National Institute of Mental Health succinctly stated, ‘The long-term effects of stimulants remain in doubt” (Regier and Leshner, 1992). The FDA-approved information put out by the drug company, Ciba-Geigy, admits “Long-term effects of Ritalin in children have not been well established’ (Physicians’ Desk Reference, 1994, p. 836). Yet methylphenidate is typically advocated as a long-term treatment.

NIMH further states that studies have demonstrated short-term effects such as reducing ‘class room disturbance’ and improving “compliance and sustained attention.” But it recognizes that the drugs seem “less reliable in bringing about associated improvements, at least of an enduring nature, in social-emotional and academic problems, such as antisocial behavior, poor peer and teacher relationships, and school failure.”

A more recent specific study (amazingly government funded) found that Ritalin causes similar effects as cocaine in the reward and pleasure centers in mice:

“Investigators funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse have shown that the medication methylphenidate (Ritalin), which is commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can cause physical changes in neurons in reward regions of mouse brains—in some cases, these effects overlapped with those of cocaine. “

With that said, no one should automatically extrapolate these findings to humans. But why I was given a stimulant with the possibility of altering my brain in the first place ? Why I was given a compound with no efficacy behind its long term effects? Did these educators and physicians care if there was a possibility my brain would be hurt?

These drugs did not work for me in the short term either. They only gave the illusion that I payed attention because I was suffering from all the nasty side effects. I was actually docile and doped and nauseated. It was good for the educators, though. They needed me zombified for a few reasons.

I was a rebellious and intelligent youngster. I did not have the patience for obeying authority without the help of pharmacotherapy. I viewed learning and education through my own lens, and I needed someone to nurture and tend to that, not force feed me their pedagogy, pills, and indoctrination. I needed support, someone to teach me how to be an autodidact, to pull myself up by my bootstraps. I did not need consensus education and child-rearing. It was burdensome for my soul, and I had to compensate for all that trauma by checking further out from reality, in order to survive as one of humanity’s most hated things: a boy child.

That is why they wanted me zombified. They did not want me thinking or learning on my own. I had to adhere to their educational dogma.

Kids, especially young boys, should not ever be chemically lobotomized with meth. In the least, they should be honestly educated about these compounds and given a choice to take them. They should not be labeled as “learning disabled” when they are actually advanced and anti-authoritarian. These traits should be celebrated, not punished. Being smart and emotionally sensitive are not diseases or defects. They are the traits of leaders and thinkers. These qualities should be commended and praised, not medicalized.

compound structure

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10 comments

    1. Yes. But stimulants are the most commonly pedaled drugs for children with the diagnosis. However, that said, I do not even subscribe to the concept that “ADD” is a legitimate illness or a problem that requires “medication” anyway.

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      1. Since you are a physician do you disclose to your patients that you don’t believe in certain forms of mental illness? You are also aware that there are medications prescribed for ADHD there are not stimulants? I am also curious why you don’t believe AHD is a legitimate illness since there have been studies and neurological imaging that concludes that it is legitimate. I think this type of thinking is most dangerous when medical physicians perpetuate the stigma.

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      2. I am not a physician. I am a therapist in training. However, when I receive my license, I will not tell my clients that I do not believe in mental illness. I will just tell them that I do not prefer the diagnostic model that pathologizes them, and then I will empathize with them and do what I can to to help them using my training.

        I already responded that I am aware that there are non-stimulant medications. The problem is that stimulants are what are generally recommended, and it is what was given to me as a child — so it was the focus of this particular blog entry.

        As for as the brain imagining, you have been misled. Scans cannot tell an ADHD brain from a non-ADHD brain with precision. There are no known biological markers for ADHD. Diagnoses of ADHD are made using the DSM, which is based on thought patterns or behavioral symptoms. In other words, there are no objective tests for ADHD.

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      3. In order for myself to receive an ADHD diagnosis I was required to receive an neurological scan as well as a computer test examination. I was also diagnosed along hereditary markers in my biology. Hopefully they cover that course in training. An informed parent would not take recommendations without further research for the sake of their child.

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      4. I’m curious as why you’d rule out the existence of ADHD, but not any other form of mental illness. Have you spoken to a person that was diagnosed and treated through both medication and therapy for over 25 years? Don’t you believe you’d have a better sense of empathy from hearing all sides of an argument?

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  1. @Sterling Lujan: Dear ‘therapist in training’, obviously there is much you don’t know. Start here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2453122/

    Saying that there are no tests for AD(H)D is just plain ignorance, and it ultimately does more harm than good. You see, some stupid people might repeat this without checking the facts. Unbelievable, but it does happen sometimes, even on the internet. Now back to you – are you interested in truth, or are you just pushing someone’s agenda, knowingly or unknowingly ?

    I do not deny that these fMRI a SPECT based tests are NOT used were they should be used – especially in cases of children. But they do exist! The tragedy is that they are (somewhat) expensive, and it is much easier to ‘diagnose’ every non-compliant child as having AD(H)D by 15 minute interview. To use big words, I consider this a crime against humanity.
    But again, there is a difference in brain structure, and in blood flow (and in glucose metabolism etc. etc.) between ‘normal’ and AD(H)D brain. Go figure – google is so cheap nowadays …

    I am not a neurologist myself, I just have ADD. I diagnosed it myself (my big thanks to socialized medicine in EU!), after spending three years after burnout looking into wall, unable to do *anything*. Much fun, believe me. I found out what is wrong with me only after I took a stimulant (5-MAPB I think) – for the first time in my life, I felt inner peace, and I was able to fully concentrate. I even got part of my motivation back – small miracle, to be a motivated anarchist in fully statist society, but at least I don’t contemplate suicide by cop anymore. But no worries, I would not able to do it anyway … lack of motivation and concentration is a bit crippling when it comes to planning and performing. My thanks to Chris C. for ‘talking’ me out of it.

    Also, comparing metylphenidate with meth just by looking at chem structure could show only your lack of education. Pretty please, do look up their pharmacokinetics … if nothing else, methylphenidate is neuroprotective, while meth is neurotoxic. Bluelight, lycaeum, erowid … non-state information resources are out there.
    One last thing – do you realize that the picture labeled as methamphetamine is actually levomethamphetamine ? Just because something sounds similar … nah, why bother …

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