Ritalin Gone Wrong Response

A recent article in the New York Times entitled: “Ritalin Gone Wrong” was very critical of the current treatment for ADD/ADHD. There are significant problems with the arguments forwarded in the article. I was interviewed on the News about this issue, on Thursday February 2nd, 2012. Here’s the video. I will write a more detailed response on this blog for your shortly.

To start the video, just click the button below:

For iPhone/iPad video, click here.

Please feel free to share this video with others who may want to know this information, and please share your thoughts and comments below.


Dr. Kenny

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  1. Once again you come to the rescue as an advocate to All those with ADD or ADHD.

    Your analagies and explanations are what the world needs to hear not the misinformation that this study narrowly described.

    Thanks goodness you put the world straight.


  2. This will be the Scientologists… again!

    They regularly issue death threats against my consultant in the UK and it is well know that they have a major issue with medication for mental health and other issues. They are also extremely wealthy and have very influential friends.

    Consequently they are able to mobilise sizable PR campaigns and this looks like another example of their work. They are a perncious and rather shady collection of what can only be described as mentally ill people with a deterimination that is quite formidable.

    It is a great shame that this kind of PR, which is aimed at taking us back to the dark ages, is so easily taken up by the oh so guilible media. In my experience it is best just to ignore it and don’t engage in any kind of debate with them as that is exactly what they want you to do.

    • Roy – thank you for your thoughtful comments. I generally agree with you. My main concern is this: the families who are less educated about ADHD will read the article, or hear about it in the news (or from their worried ‘Aunt Sally’), and then they stop medication, or even stop seeing the doctor for help. To me, this is the important reason to ‘engage’ in the debate. I know I’m not going to convince the nay-sayers. And I know that people who ‘get it’, will continue to ‘get it’ and not be swayed by this type of thing. But there is a HUGE number of people in the (let’s call it) ‘middle ground’. And we need to speak up for them – so they don’t get swept under with the negative tide that the media can bring.

  3. My 8 year old (ADHD-inattentive type) son read the whole article (Ritalin Gone Wrong) without me prompting (a major accomplishment since he basically refused to read last year). He drew the conclusion, based on the article, that he shouldn’t be taking the medication because it doesn’t work. We had a long discussion about it and decided to stay on the medication until we could do further research (and experiment going off when he is out of school for the summer). I will have my son watch your video (and read your blog) so he can draw futher conclusions for himself!

    Your book is incredibly helpful and I appreciate the information in your regular e-mails. Thanks so much!!

  4. If you were told your child had diabetes and needed medication….would you treat it with medication….of course you would. I feel the same way with ADHD…..its a disorder that needs to be treated with a combination of medication and other techniques.


  5. OMG, is this ever going to end. Thank goodness for you, Dr.Kenny. I do whatever I can to advocate your professional opinions and knowledge about ADHD. Again, when are these people going to believe in the process, dedication and knowledge that you have accumulated since dealing with AdHD. If there is anything I can help you with please do not hesitate to ask. Fran

  6. This response was sent in by email, and is reproduced here with permission of the comment author:

    Dear Dr. Kenny,
    There are studies that show Ritalin is neuro protective. This needs to be explained in layman terms so that parents,teachers and the general public can understand the benefits of medication treatment for children with ADHD.
    I liked your video response. As a psychiatrist, I weigh the pros and cons of ADHD pharmacotherapy and emphasize the importance of teaching children learning strategies in addition to medication treatment so they get the best care for their needs.
    Thank you very much.
    Dr. Saleem Kirmani
    Cumberland Health Authority
    Amherst, NS

  7. Dr. Handelman: In January I received a diagnosis of ADD at the age of 47. I would be happy to share my Ritalin Gone Right story. I regret not seeking a diagnosis sooner. Ritalin has given me a new freedom in my home life and most significantly in my work life. For the first time in my life I am fully present, focused and the confidence I have gained in this short time is nothing short of astounding.

    Ritalin is only a piece of the puzzle but I am certain it is a large piece. I noticed the difference immediately. People seem to lack understanding of what Ritalin, or any ADD medication actually does. The misunderstanding perpetuates in school yards as parents talk to each other and in classrooms where teachers see a “quick solution” and don’t look beyond. I truly believe the general population misunderstands ADD and treatment approaches.

    As a parent of a child with ADD my daughter and I have been extremely fortunate to find professionals who have guided us, educated us and given us hope of how to move forward.

    Education is the number one way to move people forward in understanding ADD, and the possible treatments that are available out there. Thanks for your on-going support. It has made a world of difference in our lives. Gail Devlin

  8. Deciding to give our daughter medication to treat ADD was a VERY difficult one. And even for a long time after we started, I struggled with what we were doing. However, over time, I’ve come to realize that to withhold medication from her because of our (unfounded) reluctance towards the “idea” would be a selfish disservice to her. We’re always working with her on learning strategies to compensate, but the reality is that without the medication, she struggles to concentrate on learning those strategies.

    I find that people, even medical professionals, that have no direct personal experience with ADD/ADHD, tend to think that ADD/ADHD medication masks behaviours. That it changes them into something/someone more acceptable. In my personal view, I think it is quite the opposite: the medication doesn’t change my daughter, rather it allows MY DAUGHTER TO BETTER CONTROL HER OWN BEHAVIOUR. It’s really just a tool, and she’s in the driver’s seat. With the medication’s help, SHE makes better decisions, SHE maintains appropriate inhibitions, SHE lives up to her own capabilities, etc. Also, in my personal view, the “hyper” part is remarkably similar to the way a person can be hyper when under the influence of alcohol…and not making good decisions, and not controlling inhibitions, etc. (To my layman understanding and way of thinking this kind of makes sense given most ADD/ADHD medications are stimulants and alcohol is a depressant.)

    I have no medical education upon which to base my views, but I have STUDIED my daughter and her EVERY action and EVERY reaction in trying to understand this. If I had to bet, I’d say the psychologist who wrote the article in question has never actually lived with a person with ADD/ADHD…

  9. Since I am raising my third boy with ADHD issues, I can rightfully say if Ritalin actually CURED it, I would pay any price and be first in line for a bottle. We’ve found the cure is a combo of things including: behaviour therapy, tutoring, vitamins, physical exercise, understanding teachers and mama spending time on her knees in ferverant prayer for strength to make it though another day without doing something drastic that would have our family end up on the front page of the national newspaper.

  10. Although I agree that the psychologist who authored that article did not really provide any convincing evidence to validate his points. Neither did you. It is definitely possible that one can gain tolerance for sleeplessness and loss of appetite, yet still benefit from the effects of medication when it comes to ADHD. I think that everyone needs to stop pretending that they have this issue figured out, and claiming that they have all of the answers. More research definitely needs to be done, especially comparing treatments to a control group. Prevalence of this disorder does not mean anything, unless it is properly controlled with a ‘normal’ population. You claim that there has always been undiagnosed cases of ADHD, yet the criteria for diagnoses, are clearly flawed. Just because individuals can be diagnosed with ADHD under the current diagnostic criteria, does not necessarily mean that they actually have the disorder. Many normal functioning people in society can be diagnosed with any number of disorders simply because they appear to satisfy the diagnostic criteria; however, this should lead to all of these individuals to begin taking medication. You should not simply gloss over the fact that medications do in fact have side effects, many of which are well underreported or even worse, unknown. It seems that clinicians and therapists want to simply administer medication for all purposes simply to make their lives easier. If it is possible to use other strategies other than medication later in the therapeutic process, then why would it not be possible to begin with? The answer is that therapists have now become overreliant on medication, and do not have the necessary skills or patience to treat patients without it.

    • Just because there might or might not be misdiagnoses, or worse, intentional misdiagnoses to get access to accommodations or controlled substances, does not change the fact that medication works, ADHD is real, and that people who really have ADHD should be allowed and encouraged to seek medication despite there being some bad psychiatrists who are diagnose-happy, and some parents overreacting about their child’s momentarily loss of focus. Just because some people abuse morphine doesn’t mean it should never be used for legitimate reasons, so I don’t see how the flaws in the diagnostic process contradicts Dr. Handelman’s points. There are over-diagnoses and under-diagnoses, make no mistake. I’m 19 and I was only diagnosed this February, but it was better than never.

      “If it is possible to use other strategies other than medication later in the therapeutic process, then why would it not be possible to begin with?”

      I don’t know if you have ADHD, but as someone living with this condition, it is nearly impossible for me to form habits. I’m not a native English speaker, but I have been speaking for most of my life and outscore, yet my friend tells me that every time he sees me, my accent is different- it just does whatever it wants when it wants. This is but one example of how I find it difficult to form habits, and good habits can be formed much more easily when the individual has control over himself FIRST, which is where medication comes in. Over my 19 years of life I have developed many strategies (and being a college freshman, some of them are recent- if only I can keep them up), but it did happen too late. My GPA is extremely high in a rigorous liberal arts college, but my high school GPA, not so much. It makes me wonder what I could have achieved had I been on medication earlier. I did apply, and failed to be admitted, to a number of Top 10 universities, which I think I have the ability to succeed in and fully deserve to attend given how hard I had worked for my meager high school GPA.

  11. Dear Dr.Handelman and fellow bloggers,

    Dr.Handelman I really liked your discussion of “Ritalin Gone Wrong”. As a note to some of the skeptics: With any psychological condition, it is critical to take a holistic view and approach to treating the actual disorder or weakness. Often making generalizations or narrow-minded skepticism can lead to inaccurate or misguided assumptions.
    I am curious whether you (Dr.Handelman) could discuss in another blog entry the relationship between memory and ADHD medication. In particular, I am curious about whether co-morbid ADHD related disorders, such as GAD or OCD, can impair the working memory of patients even with methylphenidate or other ADHD treatments.

    All the best,


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