"Essay for Education World"

Attention Deficit Disorder

Are drugs the only answer?

I had wanted to write about Attention Deficient Disorder for long time before reading Dina Weaver Dunne’s “Dramatic Rise in ADD sparks Controversy”. This is my first year teaching and in addition to being overwhelmed by the whole school experience, I found myself teaching an extra class that included a substantial portion of children on medication for ADD. I saw first hand the change in many students after they were put on medication. They weren’t sleepy or lethargic, but alert and able to concentrate. I felt guilty. I was guilty because medication had made my job easier. Yet I kept thinking, why are their so many kids diagnosed with this disease? What are the long-term effects of these drugs? What happened to these kids twenty years ago, when were they just termed “bad kids”?

Diane Weaver Dunne’s article reveals the correlation between the pharmaceutical companies who sponsor drug research at the same universities that they have contributed grant money to. What of course is mind-boggling is that this is not prohibited by the FDA. This seems to be an accepted practice of business. Even non-profits for the disorder accept drug money, “The organization (Children and Adults With Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) accepted nearly $750,000 from Ciba-Gigy between 1991 and 1994”, according to one lawsuit. So if we can agree that universities, non-profits and drug companies are all suspiciously connected, where does that leave my students? Are they being diagnosed accurately? Are there alternatives to drugs?

I have done a cursory search for alternatives on the web, they seem to be few and far between, the ones that do exist seem to be hawking their own product.

Even the article by Ms. Dunne seems to say that real in depth research to alternatives is lacking, in part because they are two camps of thought. People who live with the disease/diagnosis and those who think the disease does not exist. Where are the people who have seen the disease first hand and accept its existence but believe that drugs might not be the answer? If the main advocacy group for the disease takes money from drug companies who is giving us valid information?

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© Gina Coletti 2002