ADHD Drugs Compensate for a Deficit of Attention to Schools


The New York Times describes a growing trend among doctors: prescribing medication to fix a “made up” diagnosis in children, in order to compensate for a very real deficit in academic performance – by schools starved of cash. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. In this article is the story of a family where all four kids were put on stimulants. By admission of the parents two of the kids were not ADHD. The part of the story of most interest to me is that one of the kids developed psychosis and became suicidal at the age of ten after being on Adderall for five years. They then switched the child to Risperdal. My son was put on stimulants at age 7 and had a full blown psychotic break at age 14, though in hind sight there were signs of psychotic features since the age of 9, which did not change the psychiatrist’s decision, the psychologist’s recommendation or my perception on continuing the uninterrupted use of the stimulant drugs. The psychiatrist just added an antidepressant at age 9 because of his suicidal ideations.
    I have not found any research on the long term effects of stimulant use in children and in particular any causal link to psychosis. My anecdote, the one in this article, and many others indicate that there may very well be a significant link. Why is there no serious effort by the medical establishment to know at least the statistics? On MIA this question is rhetorical. Even if it happens in only one of ten cases, like my son or the child in the article, then hundreds of thousands of children in the US alone are iatrogenically contracting “serious mental illness”.

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  2. This is a must read MIA’ers!
    The story is so rich with what we’ve been talking about on this site since its inception.

    The last quote, “I am the doctor for the patient, not for society” is the EXACT sentiment expressed by physicians interviewed in an Ohio county struggling with…wait for it, opiate abuse. That’s right, the physicians felt exaclty the same way. The person needs it, they’re struggling with pain and discomfort, we’re going to prescribe it to them. We’re not the police, we’re doctors!

    You have to respond to the father who admits he knows that giving his daughter Adderall is for “cosmetic” reasons.

    Please note, that one physician felt like he couldn’t say no to the parents seeking these drugs. Unfortunately, this is what I hear far too often. Physicians report being “helpless” in the face of parental demands for pills.

    There’s so much more to mine, but I trust others will weigh in.

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  3. The simple answer to the question of why these horrible “side effects” are not being researched is that such research would reduce the profits of the drug companies.

    And one issue (among many) that the Times article doesn’t mention is the very high percentage of physicians who take money from the drug companies to prescribe their drugs to children.

    It is horrible for me to think of the millions, literally millions, of children whose lives are being ruined by this. What is going to happen to this country when a huge proportion of our young people have become disabled by psychiatry? How will we function?

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    • Thanks Ted. As I said my question was rhetorical. The real question is what can we do to protect the children? For my child the harm is already done. His experience pales in comparison to your story though. I really believe we need to recover the militancy of the civil rights movement of our younger years that you speak about. Thanks for your all contributions to MIA and to the cause of the victims.

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  4. Psychosis IS a well-established side effect of stimulants, even at prescribed dosages. A retrospective study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (about as mainstream a journal as there is) stated that over 6% of stimulant-treated kids he looked at retrospectively had evidence of psychotic symptoms in their file. I would hardly call 6% rare. This does not include the larger number who have aggressive incidents related to stimulant use, which is also covered in the story, though blamed on adolescence rather than the stimulant drugs. What REALLY dismays me, though it hardly surprises me any more, is that the doctor, KNOWING that psychosis is a potential side effect of stimulant treatment, switches to Risperdal, rather than just discontinuing the stimulant and seeing if the symptoms go away. And the poor kid is now left spouting psychiatric dogma: If I didn’t take Risperdal, I’d be too bad of a kid for my parents and teacher to handle.

    It disgusts me no end that we know the school environment itself is causing the biggest proportion of these “disorders”, but the kids continue to take the blame and have their brains screwed with because they don’t fit into the environment. And I find this doctor highly reprehensible for going along with it. If he is so certain that the school itself is the major cause of these kids’ suffering, why isn’t he speaking out and meeting with the school principals and superintendents and PTSAs and letting them know what’s going on? Doctors have a natural authority that would make people take notice if they started sending this message. Why isn’t he refusing to medicate and offering these parents alternatives, like seeking an alternative school environment or home schooling or getting their kids on IEPs or encouraging them to take political action?

    “I’m their doctor, not the doctor for society” is a total cop-out. Time to speak up, Doc!

    —- Steve

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