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Re: GG: Asperger's (again!), OCD, Tourette's, etc.

Hi f_minorites, hi Anne M.,

This is equally off-topic, because it's about Anne M.'s off-topic post.

You guys know from a previous post my very negative, dubious and suspicious feelings about the posthumous diagnosis of Glenn Gould and Asperger's Syndrome.

Well, now ADHD raises its ugly head.

ADHD has some rather unique features as a disease.

1. It changes its name a lot. In my experience, institutions, people and entities that change their name a lot tend to reflect a certain absence of solidity, permanence, dependability, reliability and trustworthiness.

2. There is no accepted positive diagnosis of ADHD. That is, if you take someone -- usually a child -- to a handful of physicians, psychologists, school nurses and administrators, etc. allegedly having expertise in this area, some say the kid has ADHD, some say not.

3. And some will say there's no such disorder as ADHD or ADD or whatever it's called this year.

4. The more we diagnose children with ADHD/ADD and give them the current appropriate treatment, the more the executives and stockholders of a couple of huge multinational pharmaceutical companies throw a party. Ritalin, a powerful psychotropic drug, is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in North America.

    Now this in itself doesn't prove anything. A doctor told me I have a certain disease, and prescibed a certain daily medication for me. He and his pharmaceutical buddies could be jiving me. The difference is that

        (a.) there's a positive quantifiable diagnosis for my disease -- they run my blood (or some other liquid stuff) through the lab, and a Number comes up, and if that Number is greater than a benchmark number, I have the disease. There's no controversy about who has my disease and who doesn't. There's no such test for AD(H)D.

        (b.) since Hippocrates first got an accurate diagnostic/symptomatic grasp on my disease 2500 years ago, they've know that everyone who has it but who does not take this medication will very soon die, and in a particularly predictable and ghastly fashion. (Under those circumstances, I don't mind that Eli Lilly is making a nice profit off of me, and I have a very warm spot in my heart for the two Canadian physicians who invented my medication. They certainly died with great honor, and I hope they died filthy rich, if that's what they wanted.)

    On the other hand, what happens to a child diagnosed with AD(H)D who is cruelly prevented from taking Ritalin? Well -- that depends. How big is his (most AD(H)D "sufferers" are adolescent males) class size? How crummy is his school? How lousy are his teachers? How lousy and overworked is the counseling and psychological staff? What's the situation in his home?

    Did his teachers sound the alarm because he was asking funny questions? Does he/she refuse to control and dampen his/her inappropriate curiosity? Does he/she have an IQ greater than a lot of his teachers? Is he/she doing nothing more medically worrisome than expressing individuality and boredom? In other words -- is the AD(H)D sufferer essentially having a great deal of trouble being "processed" cooperatively in a mass-cookie-cutter school, with a culture of trendy-theory, not very sophisticated teachers and administrators?

    More to the point, what particularly led to his AD(H)D diagnosis? Squirming a lot? Jumping up and running around? Short attention span? Dislike of the school/classroom setting? This set of presented symptoms is often associated with the dreaded condition known as Childhood, or Male Childhood. Huckleberry Finn today would most certainly get dosed with Ritalin. So would I.

*       *       *

    There's a very new wrinkle to this AD(H)D business. About two weeks ago, front page New York Times, a report said that thousands of USA children as young as two and three are being maintained on Ritalin -- though even the manufacturer specifically says it has no studies indicating the medical appropriateness of giving Ritalin to infants and toddlers, nor does the US Food and Drug Administration approve such prescription for this age range.

    What is going on here? These kids aren't even in school yet -- what kind of unique toddler trouble are they getting into at home that leads parents to seek out physicians who will prescribe a powerful psychotropic to infants and toddlers?

    It must be emphasized that we know very little about the biochemical processes involved in the growth of the brain as it develops in childhood. The combination of rapid development of neurochemical processes with an invasive powerful psychotropic drug is -- well, nuts.

    Also, for what it's worth, although I rarely take my Good Health Tips from military doctors (I'm an Army veteran), the US military will not accept a candidate for recruitment if he/she was previously taking Ritalin. You'll have to call the military doctors up to find out why.

    Under the Federal Truth in Ranting Act, I need to point out that one of the most strident groups against the mass-dosing of children with Ritalin are the Scientologists. I'm not a Scientologist. And I wish they'd go away from this AD(H)D controversy, because their presence confuses and contaminates the public and professional dialogue, and will certainly delay any progress or clarity in this deeply disturbing controversy.

    After a series of very troubling legislative hearings, Colorado late last year passed a resolution telling public school administrators to cease pressuring parents to medicate their children with Ritalin. I suspect this is going to be a growing trend. Colorado, of course, is the unhappy place of the Columbine High School massacre. The question of medications taken by the two killers is still (from my reading) unclear, but one of them had just recently been rejected by the military. If anyone has a better knowledge of any such linkage, let me know.

*       *       *

    How could our medical and educational professionals possibly be wrong after two decades of ubiquitous dosing of hundreds of thousands of their beloved patients and students with Ritalin?

    I've mentioned this kind of history before. Standard M.D. psychiatric practice in the UK in the 1950s for male homosexuality -- after the guy was arrested, because until quite recently adult consentual homosexuality was a crime -- was forced injections of sex hormones. The computer pioneer Alan M. Turing grew breasts during his court-ordered treatment shortly before he committed suicide.

    In Switzerland for decades (until newspapers exposed it in the 1970s), being a Gypsy (more properly Romany) was considered mental illness requiring enforced hospitalization; Gypsy children were routinely taken from their parents by the state.

    In the USSR, public objection to the Soviet government or Communist Party was considered a severe psychiatric disorder requiring involuntary hospitalization. Routine treatments included insulin and electric shock, and the shrinking wet-canvas straitjacket treatment. These "treatments" only slowed down when the international psychiatric associations threatened to expel their Soviet colleagues. I've read interviews with these Soviet M.D. psychiatrists -- they weren't evil knowing tools of the government. They had grown up in a professional culture that sincerely convinced them that anyone who objected to the Soviet system was mentally ill; they were shocked and dismayed that their foreign colleagues saw it rather differently.

    I'll also be glad to discuss Female Hysteria, a well-known psychiatric disorder of former times, but not here, this is a family channel.

    This is not to disparage psychiatrists or unfairly condemn them in a blanket fashion. They are wonderful, dedicated professionals, and they actually have come up in recent years with many effective drugs against the scourges of schizophrenia and severe paralytic depression. (For which I, as a shelter volunteer in a town with a lot of "dumped" psychiatric patients, am very grateful and awed.) When you or your loved ones have a mental-health crisis, these are the people to see and to trust.

    But because the brain and mind are still to a great extent mysterious, unknown things, the history of psychiatry has always had a built-in volume of Trendiness and Quackery, often doing a great deal of mass harm. This harm, of course, usually becomes clearer, or first gets exposed, decades later.

    But the mass-dosing of children with Ritalin for this highly dubious AD(H)D condition -- I think the best and the smartest of us, outside and within these professions, can do the safest and most loving things for our children right now by buffering our opinions with an enormous amount of skepticism. If you have a child, and school authorities are recommending (or even hard-selling) Ritalin, I strongly recommend a great deal of research and a second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth opinion before you agree to this Miracle Cure for what very well may, in a decade, not even be a disease anymore.

Bob Merkin
Elmer Elevator's Discount Prep: