MTA, ADHD, Ritalin, and Pediatric Psychiatry: How Science Screwed My Kids—(

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Written by Derek Markham
Published on April 8th, 2009
Posted in Health

One mother’s frightening odyssey into the world of ADHD and multiple drug treatments for her children highlights the unhealthy relationship between big drug companies and child psychiatry, and the effectiveness of following half-finished studies.

“When a major study said kids with ADHD could benefit from drugs, we gave my son Ritalin. Then he became manic and delusional­and now the study’s researchers say they might have been wrong all along.”

The article “How Science Screwed My Kids”, published on The Daily Beast under the pseudonym “Grace Poole”, relates one family’s experience with child psychiatry that has left them skeptical and cautious about the effectiveness of medications versus behavioral therapy. The piece is a must read for any parent struggling with the question of “to Ritalin or not to Ritalin.”

“[1999] was the very year pediatric psychiatry went giddy with excitement over the initial findings of the National Institute of Mental Health Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD, better known as the MTA. The MTA was a study to listen to. It was an ambitious, multiyear longitudinal study of 579 children diagnosed with ADHD, conducted by a team of first-class researchers and funded by the federal government.”

The author goes on to tell the story of her son’s first prescription of Ritalin and the seesaw effect of the medication on him. He went from “merely hyperactive and tantrum-prone to manic and delusional” and was then prescribed antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, and antidepressants, ultimately going through 20 medication trials and 12 hospitalizations before manage his emotions and behavior.

And now, the results of a follow-up on the MTA study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry show no significant advantages to medication-inclusive interventions over medication-exclusive interventions. “It’s enough to make you crazy.” says the mother.

She goes on to point out the unholy alliance of big medicine and pediatric psychiatry, and gives plenty of reasons to question the risks vs. the benefits of ADHD medication (including the possibility of permanent effects on children). She doesn’t come out totally against it (one of her children is still on meds), but stresses the need to really study and assess the pros and cons.

It’s well worth a read, and should be passed on to any parents who are dealing with child behavioral issues and considering medication. Read the entire article: How Science Screwed My Kids and email it to your circle of friends.

Image: PburghStever at Flickr under CC License

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Tags: ADHD, MTA, pediatric psychiatry, ritalin