Excuse me, but do you mind if someone with specific expertise joins this debate? I am not a doctor or a psychologist. I am one who has actually taken methylphenidate (Ritalin) to treat attention deficit disorder.

Dr. David Keirsey is so wrong that I don't know where to start.

First of all I am NOT a zombie with my meds or without. Ritalin does not change my personality or intelligence. It is not a "chemical straitjacket." I am as free to act at my own discretion with Ritalin as I am without it. It does not impair my natural creativity in any way. I am not addicted, but free to take it or not depending on projected need for that day. It does not change the way I think, feel, or act.

It has ONE major effect. It allows me to concentrate my attention. I have had many opportunities to compare my attention level with Ritalin to that without it. For most tasks, I am able to concentrate much better if I have taken Ritalin.

In grade school, I was too immature and inexperienced to detect the difference. In high school, however, I found out how much difference it really made. Without Ritalin algebra was next to impossible. I become distracted and forgot what I was doing. I lost track of where I was in the problem and would have to start over. With Ritalin, algebra was a fun game with numbers and symbols. I am now a computer science major in college, but I would never have been able to reach this point without the help of Ritalin.

You will notice that there is no 'disparity of interests' involved in the example. I find mathematics to be a beautiful and fascinating subject whether I take Ritalin or not. It is just that some forms of math are just too hard to follow if I can't pay attention to them.

I do not doubt that the DSM-IV is vague and confusing on the subject of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is because we really don't know much about it's cause or its mechanisms. This does not mean it is not a real problem.

Inattention is a negative concept. Inability to pay attention is not. It is not that I don't pay attention when I do not take my medication and I must pay attention when I do. It would be more correct to say that without Ritalin, I CANNOT pay attention (whether I want to or not) and with the Ritalin I CAN pay attention.

I do not doubt that Ritalin is over prescribed. Doctors seem almost casual about handing it out. I believe this arose because, while the doctors are the one who prescribe the medication, it is usually the parents or teachers who recognize and 'diagnose' the problem. This is a situation that can be fixed. It is now possible for a Neuro-psychologist to reliably diagnose ADHD and differentiate it from other causes of inattentiveness.

Somehow, with all the publicity around Ritalin, some students came to believe that it was a wonder drug to make you smarter. They wanted to try it. So they bought it from the students to whom it had been legitimately prescribed. They took massive doses, they used it improperly, they even crushed it and snorted it like cocaine! Some became addicted so they paid for more. The sellers do not sell because they hate the medicine, they sell because the buyers pay good money.

As to your list of long term side effects, let us take them one at a time:

  1. brain atrophy:
    I have never heard of this one before. Please cite an journal article so I can make a more informed response. In the meantime, I have been taking it since the 3rd grade. I have an IQ of 145, an SAT score of 1420, an ACT score of 32, and a GPA of 3.0. Make your own judgement.

  2. loss of motor control:
    Again, I have never heard of this and have seen no evidence. Granted, I have never been and probably never will be an athletic achiever. That, however, is due to personal preference. My younger brother has been taking Ritalin for almost as long as I have and he does quite well in the local little league baseball team.

  3. stunted growth:
    I have been taking Ritalin sense the 3rd grade. I am over 6 feet tall and taller then both my parents.

  4. Low-self esteem:
    I have indeed had this symptom! Before I took Ritalin, I thought I must be stupid, sense I could not do work that was easy for other students. Now, I am simply aware that I had better take my Ritalin before class, and my self-esteem is normal.

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