According to the Washington Post, 10% percent of 10-year-old American boys are on Ritalin or similar drugs. From my experience as a teacher I can tell you that there are some kids for whom the drugs are useful–I’ve seen it firsthand. On the other hand, for most boys it is useless and counterproductive. The problem is not our boys–the problem is that our schools refuse to adapt and accommodate boys’ educational needs and learning styles.
In my co-authored column Resolving the Boy Crisis in Schools (Chicago Sun-Times, 5/7/06), I explained:
“Many healthy, energetic, intelligent boys are branded as behavior problems as soon as they begin school, and are punished and put on Ritalin or other drugs so they will sit still. Little thought is given to two obvious questions: how could a six or seven year-old be ‘bad’? And how could so many boys need drugs to function in school? Because schools and classrooms do not fit their educational needs, many boys disengage from school long before they ever reach the prep school level.
“Many modern educational practices are counterproductive for boys. Success in school is tightly correlated with the ability to sit still, be quiet and complete paperwork and assignments which are sometimes of questionable value. A ‘get tough’ mentality—under which teachers give excessive homework lest they appear uncommitted or weak—has become a substitute for educators actually having a sound reason for assigning all the work they assign.”
We now have one more reason to take action on the boy crisis in education–a major new study shows that kids who take Ritalin for three years are on average shorter and lighter than kids who don’t.
– Glenn Sacks
Study: Ritalin Stunts Growth
Research Shows That After 3 Years On ADHD Medication, Kids Are Shorter And Lighter Than Peers
CBS News, July 20, 2007
By Daniel DeNoon
(WebMD) After three years on the ADHD drug Ritalin, kids are about an inch shorter and 4.4 pounds lighter than their peers, a major U.S. study shows.
The symptoms of childhood ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) usually get dramatically better soon after kids start taking stimulant drugs. But this benefit may come with a cost, says James Swanson, Ph.D., director of the Child Development Center at the University of California, Irvine.
“Yes, there is a growth-suppression effect with stimulant ADHD medications,” Swanson tells WebMD. “It is going to occur at the age of treatment, and over three years it will accumulate.”
Whether these kids eventually grow to normal size remains a question. Kids entered the study in 1999 at ages 7 to 9. The current report is a snapshot taken three years later. The 10-year results — when the kids are at their adult height — won’t be in for two more years.
“The big question now is whether there is any effect on these kids’ ultimate height,” Swanson says. “We don’t know if by the time they are 18 they will regain the height.”
The finding appears to end decades of debate over whether stimulant medications affect children’s growth. Less than 10 years ago, a National Institutes of Health panel concluded that the drugs carried no long-term growth risk. That opinion was so widely accepted that the study authors — who include most of the leading ADHD researchers in the U.S. — did not warn parents that the study medication might carry this risk.
At the time, researchers thought that any short-term stunting of growth would be made up by a hypothesized “growth spurt” that would occur with continued treatment. But Swanson and colleagues saw no evidence of such a growth spurt.