I’m not often caught com­pletely unawares by the depths of cre­tinism to which my fel­low pri­mates descend, but this story (another via MSNBC) man­aged to do it.

Apparently there is a small trend among some par­ents to ask for “ADHD” meds for kids who don’t need them — so the kids will do bet­ter in school. And we’re not talk­ing about lift­ing Fs here; we’re talk­ing about rais­ing Bs into A level.

Now let me be clear about some­thing. I’m not cer­tain “ADHD” even exists, and I’m not alone in that. There are a lot of men­tal health experts who doubt it as well. There are no clear diag­nos­tic cri­te­ria for it; there is no med­ical or phar­ma­co­log­i­cal test that can be admin­is­tered to deter­mine if it’s present or absent in a given child.

Whether as a blood test or brain scan, there is no way at all to objec­tively prove a phys­i­cal con­di­tion that can be unam­bigu­ously diag­nosed as “ADHD”. There is no neu­ro­log­i­cal com­po­nent, there is no phys­i­cal com­po­nent, and there is no dis­ease agent.

Rather, “ADHD” is some­thing that is “diag­nosed” based solely on sub­jec­tive inter­pre­ta­tion of vaguely-​​defined behav­ioral cues in chil­dren sus­pected of hav­ing the “dis­or­der”. Its pres­ence — par­tic­u­larly in “bor­der­line” cases — is so tene­brous that the “evi­dence” for it might quite plau­si­bly be due strictly to observer bias. (I expect to find this thing; there­fore, I do.)

Dowsing is as good a method as any other for diag­nos­ing “ADHD”, in other words.

Thus I will freely admit to a bias: I don’t believe we should be pump­ing drugs — mind– and mood-​​altering drugs — into chil­dren in the name of “treat­ing” a “con­di­tion” whose very pres­ence has never yet been objec­tively proved.

But when wrong­headed par­ents want to turn their kids into aca­d­e­mic über­men­schen by giv­ing them Ritalin or Adderall, there’s some­thing deeply fucked up indeed with those parents.

There don’t seem to be any stud­ies done on this right now, which means evi­dence is purely anec­do­tal, but some physi­cians have expressed con­cern that par­ents believe “ADHD” drugs will some­how make their kids into super-​​students, bright and aca­d­e­m­i­cally out­stand­ing, rather than accept the harder real­ity: Some kids are sim­ply not geniuses. (In fact, sta­tis­ti­cally, most are not.)

Possibly some believe that “every child is bril­liant” — which is obvi­ously a ludi­crous notion — but I think it’s more likely another case of bias: “My child is bril­liant.” And if he isn’t, well, I’ll damn well pump him full of what­ever it takes to make him brilliant.

But there’s a pro­foundly dis­turb­ing ele­ment here. Drugs used to treat “ADHD” have been linked to

[D]ifficulty sleep­ing, loss of appetite, irri­tabil­ity, stom­achaches, headaches, blurry vision, nau­sea, dizzi­ness, drowsi­ness and tics and tremors.

There is indi­ca­tion of delayed growth, tac­tile hal­lu­ci­na­tion and psy­chotic behav­ior. There is also some indi­ca­tion that “ADHD” meds can lead to fre­quent depres­sion prob­lems in adulthood.

And yet, the FDA approved the drugs for use — the drugs are being pushed heav­ily by their man­u­fac­tur­ers — mil­lions of par­ents are pump­ing them heed­lessly into their chil­dren — and some are try­ing to use them for inap­pro­pri­ate purposes.

I’ve opined in the past (mostly cyn­i­cally, mostly not mean­ing it) that intel­li­gence test­ing should be required of any­one before they are allowed to par­ent. This only seems to under­score the need.

Drugs do not belong in children.

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