According to the Mayo Clinic, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is “a combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.” Boys are most frequently targeted with the diagnosis. What we need to do is evaluate what constitutes a diagnosis, and what its ramifications are.
Our education system treats children’s innately energetic nature as a behavior that requires modification. ADHD is defined by a series of ten personality characteristics that, more or less, are entirely subjective. That’s not to say ADHD isn’t real, but maybe it’s not as prevalent as we think. Is it impossible to imagine dealing differently with what in most cases is an “exercise” problem rather than a mental pathology?
It could be that the ancient Greeks, encountering the same problem, sent some boys to Sparta to train as soldiers because they were better suited for fighting than sitting idly and listening to a teacher. Maybe the Chinese sent youngsters to learn martial arts in Buddhist monasteries for the same reason. I’m not proposing this, as I have children and I wouldn’t want them “sent away,” but I am proposing more rational solutions for aberrant behavior than powerful medications with unknown long-term affects. Ritalin, the preferred drug for ADHD, has a long list of side effects, including nervousness, insomnia, drowsiness, anorexia, cardiac arrhythmia, palpitations, high or low blood pressure, and psychosis. There is also clinical evidence that Ritalin has been linked to overtly violent behavior and its long-term toxicity have actually killed dozens of children.
Programs could be put in place that take ADHD children out of the structured classroom and still educate them at the same schools they attend. Organized sports programs, for example, can teach while the energetic child thinks he’s just playing. How? First, you let the children play, than you show them the science behind the athletic pursuits. Yes, there is science that can be taught using sports. Physics, science, math, language, history, sociology are all part of them. Professional teams could sponsor these programs because it could be to their advantage to mentor and train kids from a very young age. Of course, to engage children in such a unusual curriculum would defy the standardized characteristics of the public school system.
The US Army already has Junior ROTC that could be modified to include kids at a younger age. The US Army Junior ROTC website outlines its mandate as “To Motivate Citizens to Be Better Citizens.” The program’s objectives include
- To appreciate the ethical values and principles that underlie good citizenship
- To develop leadership potential, while living and working cooperatively with others
- To communicate logically and effectively with others, both orally and in writing
- To appreciate the importance of physical fitness in maintaining good health
- To understand the importance of high school graduation for a successful future and learn about college and other advanced educational and employment opportunities
- To develop mental management capabilities
- To become familiar with military history as it relates to America’s culture, and understand the history, purpose, and structure of military services
- To develop the skills necessary to work effectively as a member of a team
All of these “vision” standards could be applied to helping ADHD kids with their special needs. If you catch a hummingbird and keep it in captivity, it will die; its heart beats so fast and its metabolism is so high that it has to stay in motion to survive. These ADHD kids are like hummingbirds. If they are tethered to a desk, they will slowly die inside. Looking out the window is like looking out of a jail cell for them.
Significantly, Crystal Methamphetamine and Ritalin are both amphetamines. The correlation is obvious. Most people in my generation are not methamphetamine addicts[ rather it’s a problem afflicting those 40 years-old and under. It’s not a stretch to think that Ritalin may be a gateway drug to meth. There are so many criminals in prison not just for addiction but also for manufacturing or theft related to the meth culture.
What are the dangers of meth? Businesses that recycle metal had to change the way they did business because of meth addicts were stealing metal and taking it to recycling centers for money. Meth addicts sometimes strip vacant houses of their copper wiring or plumbing or steal electric wires off telephone poles and cannot hold a job due to insomnia brought on by the drug’s use. They’re also easily detected; they have open sores all over their body and a compulsion to pick at these sores. Sound glamorous to you? This is a terrible problem but nothing compared to the deaths associated with the drug. A few years ago, several people were intentionally poisoned using a hot dose of meth because they owed too much money to a dealer.
Ritalin is similarly dangerous. The prescription drug problem is part of the methamphetamine culture simply because meth addicts need barbiturates and pain killers in order to sleep or to take the harsh edge off the “speedy” feeling meth causes. A man who lived in a county north of me was found dead with both meth and pain killers in his system. He’s not alone.
I am not including a photo that I don’t have permission to use, but it was on Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta Georgia. It was posted today on Facebook. It is a male—maybe I should say “animal”—who beat an eight-week-old boy until he was blind. The boy was his son. Is he a meth addict? I don’t know. I wouldn’t hesitate to bet money that he was.
Both the short- and long-term consequences of drug addiction are well documented. Crystal meth is acknowledged by police in every corner of the country as the most dire immediate problem they face. Ritalin, by dint of being overprescribed by physicians with incentives from the drug’s maker, is becoming the new variant on the theme. To not find alternative tactics for handling and encouraging children whose sole indiscretion is being non-conformist should be the highest priority of our educational system. We all need to spread the word.