Friday, March 24, 2006

Singing the Ritalin Blues: What Novartis Doesn't Want You to Know

First of all, I have to confess I am not a doctor. I just play one on the web...really. I've gotten myself into the PubMed archives by posing as Dr. R.B. Walker, researcher. I should really be ashamed...

The bad thing is, I've easily gone over 25,000 documents and research studies, looking for clues for Ben's "disability" and answers other than Ritalin, which I don't know why I hate so much. Anyhow, although I do have a background (minimal) in Science, I have no background in Medicine. So half the time, I am like a plumber at a rocket science convention.

I am telling you this, so you know in no way am I posing as a doctor here, just somebody who tells it like they see it, and ain't afraid to say so! So if you make any decisions based on this blog, don't say I didn't warn you...

Let me tell you what I know about Ritalin, and be warned I'm probably getting the particulars wrong, but this is what Ben's psychiatrist said 7 years ago. It was serendipity that it is even used at all for kids with behavior problems. At an institution in the 1930's, children were undergoing some type of brain scan or x-ray (a particular I'm not clear on) and were given a shot of a slightly poison substance that was necessary to the scan or x-ray. The doctors wanted to clear this substance out of the children as quickly as they could, so somebody came up with the brilliant idea of giving them amphetamines. Nothing was thought of it until the nurses at the institution realized that the kids were sitting still and paying attention, post amphetamine. So eventually somebody in Big Pharma puts two and two together, and they came up with Ritalin about 40 years ago. To this day, they will tell you "they don't know why it works".

Well, here is my take on it...mind you, it is only from personal observation (aka in my mind, the beginning of the scientific method...#1 form a hypothesis...). And I could be full of it or crazy, but then again, I'm not the scientist saying "I don't know why it works", if you get my drift.

When I first insistited Ben be put on Ritalin, he was looking into going into Kindergarten. It was a week before school started, and Ben's Educational Pre-School teachers ( in public schools with certified teachers for kids with disabilities) said Ben had a 50-50 chance of making it in "Regular" Kindergarten. His speech teacher's youngest son had been on Ritalin from grade 4 through grade 9, so far, and she felt it was like giving insulin to a diabetic. My husband read the contraindications on the packet, and was SURE I was trying to KILL BEN...But, we gave it to him anyway. Other than the first few days, it would be nearly a year and one-half before we saw how it affected him because we never gave it to him at home. Actually, the first time was on a weekend when we were getting ready to move and were going out on a goodbye dinner with some friends.

We thought, "Who IS this kid who sits so quietly and listens instead of squirming in his chair and blabbering a hundred miles an hour...." and actually, our hearts went out to him, as it was a little sad...He sure didn't seem like the Ben we knew. But he did seem like a "regular kid", not the Dennis the Menace kid we knew and loved.

Even with the Ritalin, Ben "stood out". He walked funny, he talked funny. He got upset real easily, his seemed more emotionally liable, and was a BEAR when he got home from school, when the Ritalin wore off. In first grade, I had to make the choice of giving Ben Ritalin on into the evening so he could do his homework with ease. We decided he had to learn to do it sometime, without the we worked 2-4 hours a night trying to weasle a few lousy papers out of him. This was our nine month long fight for the next three years.

I just couldn't see giving Ritalin to him after school. He slept and ate too little as it was. So we duked it out 9 months of the year every evening, and our "quality of life" was nil. Ben hated school...and no wonder. Taking drugs to work 6 hours a day in school, and then come home to 2 to 4 or more hours of torture. I told the teachers, but they just couldn't wrap it around their heads that was too much for a little guy. It's what I like to call the "pull of the Almighty Gradebook". My husband and I were teachers...and guilty, too. No teacher is going to admit that homework might constitute abuse. There must be something wrong (psychologically, most probably) with the parent's, or especially, the kid. Just lazy, that's all....or crazy, or stupid.

By the fifth grade, when Ben had a teacher I swear must have had some ADD tendencies herself, or how could she be so understanding...I had made a choice of a different kind. I didn't give a hoot (I'm being nice) if Ben ever did his homework again. I didn't care if he flunked out of school...I wasn't doing the homework drill ever again. Ben was going to start pulling his own load and paying the price. What was I teaching him by watching over him like a bear, myself?

And you know what? That teacher (God bless you, Ms. Hunt) let Ben do his homework at his free time, at recess, whenever. He brought homework home about a total of 10 times all year. No need for long-acting amphetamines. Instead of fighting...we worked on our 'relationship' and did fun things or just relaxed and watched t.v. It was like were on VACATION!!!!!!!! I HOPE each of you finds a teacher who loves your child and wants what is best for them, above the "Almighty Gradebook". I will never in a million years be able to repay you, Ms. Hunt. Thanks...

Back to the Ritalin...

Things were going on as normal up until the possibility of the FDA insisting on a black-box warning label regarding the dangers of Ritalin. When I saw a little girls picture on t.v., and heard her heart broken parents saying "I wish we'd never thought that getting A's were more important than her life..." . You see, this little girl had died of long term Ritalin usage. I suppose some kids have an inherent genetic weakness that makes them unable to use Ritalin without heart damage. I was scared to death that Ben would see the news blurb on t.v. and be afraid we were trying to kill him so he could get A's in school. Or that he would be afraid for his life. Kids often think in funny ways, and will never let on to us. When he finally did see a news blurb about Ritalin, it had been toned down somewhat, no pictures of little girls who had died...

"You idiots! ADHD isn't a disability, it's a GIFT!" he says.

"Mom, those idiots are saying ADHD is a disability...don't they know it's a gift?"

Luckily, by this time, Ben was off the Ritalin. You see, God had lined this up when a woman I had talked years earlier became Ben's teacher-aide in his classroom. A friend who went to Ms. K's church had told me she was using all natural vitamins instead of Ritalin. So I had met her, and even gotten a tape from her about the protocol she was using. And here, right in Ben's classroom, was the same woman. She was someone who knew personally what I was going through. There is no advocate for us or our children like someone who has worn the same moccasins.

Within a week after hearing the news blurb about the dead little girls parent's heartache...Ben's doctor had prescribed a new that treated the "symptoms" of ADHD, and not the "behavior". But that is another whole story.


While on Ritalin...Ben got "A's", but his anxiety was increased by at least double. He was too afraid to talk to people, became paranoid, and if anybody laughed, he was sure they were laughing at him. He had few if any friends at school, and in the neighborhood, he would often get upset 5 or 10 minutes after going outside because somebody said or did something his "rigid personality" couldn't deal with and he would be indoors.

AFTER giving up the Ritalin...THANK YOU JESUS!...ahem...I mean, after trying something else...Ben's cooperation at school was not quite as good. But...he has a love life now, which I haven't heard the particulars on yet, but I know the teachers are all excited about it...He will spend up to two hours outside (and has come up with some very colorful language, even more colorful than what I've taught him...) ...He has the guts to ride the electric bike Grandpa bought him for Christmas, and he STICKS UP FOR HIMSELF!!!

I'm trying now to figure out how to tell the teachers who remember the sweet, scared little nerd that I am never going back to Ritalin. It makes him more cooperative, but maybe that's just not Ben. I haven't come up with a diplomatic way of saying "No way in hell I'm going back...", but I'm sure I will.

1 comment:

Ritalin Prescription Information said...

My name is Nathan Finch and i would like to show you my personal experience with Ritalin.

I am 32 years old. Have been on Ritalin for 2 years now. This drug has saved my life. I have seen drastic differences between times in my life when I was taking it and when I was not. I failed out of one school and graduated top of my class in the next. Floated from job to job and then became very successful. I don't like the way I feel when I am taking it (I'm boring -- no personality) so, I time my doses to help me in the office or when I have to focus on mundane task's at home like paying bills, taxes etc. and then go without it when I'm recreating.

I have experienced some of these side effects-
Initially some apatite suppression, insomnia and slight gitters. This was corrected by reducing my afternoon dose.

I hope this information will be useful to others,
Nathan Finch

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