The past year has not been a good one for the manufacturers of psychotropic drugs, and the assault continues. The January 29 edition of the New York Times features an essay by L. Alan Sroufe, Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Child Development of the University of Minnesota, which says in part:
“To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships, or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve. Until recently, most studies of these drugs had not been properly randomized, and some of them had other methodological flaws.
“But in 2009, findings were published from a well-controlled study that had been going on for more than a decade, and the results were very clear. The study randomly assigned almost 600 children with attention problems to four treatment conditions. Some received medication alone, some cognitive-behavior therapy alone, some medication plus therapy, and some were in a community-care control group that received no systematic treatment. At first this study suggested that medication, or medication plus therapy, produced the best results. However, after three years, these effects faded, and by eight years there was no evidence that medication produced any academic or behavioral benefits.”
Via email, Dr. Sroufe has kindly directed my attention to the paper, “The MTA at 8 years: Prospective Follow-Up of Children Treated for Combined ADHD in a Multisite Study,” published in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 579 children at six sites diagnosed with ADHD were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: 1) Medication management, 2) Multicomponent Behavioral Therapy, 3) Medication + Therapy, or 4) Usual Community Care (whatever that means). After eight years, there were no statistically significant effects of treatment group assignment on any of 24 outcome variables tested.
No improvement in parent and teacher ratings of aggression and conduct; or parent and teacher rating of social skills; or self-rated depression and anxiety; or reading and math scores; or grade point averages; or grade retention; or number of arrests; or psychiatric hospitalizations; or automobile accidents…The list goes on and on.
This study joins a growing list of long-term studies and systematic reviews that have found no long-term benefits of psychotropic drugs for Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. The long-term harms on the other hand, are well known, and include drowsiness, appetite loss, lethargy, insomnia, headaches, abdominal pain, motor abnormalities, facial and vocal tics, jaw clenching, skin problems, liver disorders, weight loss, growth suppression, hypertension, depression, crying jags, irritability, anxiety, a sense of hostility toward the world, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, mania, paranoia, psychotic episodes, hallucinations and sudden cardiac death.
Why are these poisons allowed to remain on the market?
Is anyone so dense he cannot figure out what is going on here? Right at the time that discipline methods that had been taken for granted since time immemorial had been thrown out, and the whole notion that children (and adults) have a responsibility to develop self-control was thrown out, suddenly literally millions of children began turning up with an “organic brain disorder” that required them to take powerful brain-altering drugs.
It seems to me that there are three possible solutions to this matter: we can find a constructive outlet for the natural energy and exuberance of children, we can punish the ones who disrupt the learning process, or we can remove them. Or we can employ some combination of the three approaches.
I’ll say this up front: our public school teachers have a difficult and thankless job. I could never do what they do. I’d like to hear from them, since they are the ones who deal with these matters every day. I think everything should be on the table EXCEPT drugging our kids into submission.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons