Sunday, October 22, 2006

Medicine: preschoolers on Ritalin, and how the media doesn't know what to do with them

So this headline about a study published in JAACAP last week on the safety and benefits of prescribing methylphenidate to kids under 6 has pretty much been taken every which way. Joe Yaroch at Corpus Callosum beat me to this post, but I might have a few more things to add. Dr Y points out two versions of the headline he ran across:

Meds Help Preschoolers with ADHD
Psych Central News Editor
Tuesday, Oct, 17, 2006

Study warns of risks of preschool Ritalin
Associated Press
Posted on Fri, Oct. 20, 2006
WTF? Now, one might simply look at the source of the article and say that Psych Central might have a vested interest in spinning the study positively. But as Dr Y notes, these headlines are both right. They're also entirely unsurprising and absolutely vanilla. This study simply wasn't that newsworthy, and doesn't say anything more than "ritalin helps clinically hyperactive kids under 6, and you gotta be careful giving it to them and watch them closely." No shit, AP.

But that's not my favorite part of the CNN article. This is:
"This is a catastrophe. It just opens up the way for drugging the younger kids," said Dr. Peter Breggin, a New York psychiatrist and longtime critic of psychiatric drug use in children.

Breggin said the research is part of a marketing push by the drug industry to expand drug use to the youngest children.
A New York psychiatrist. As if that is ALL Peter Breggin is. Breggin has made a career out of being anti-psychiatry. He doesn't use meds. He bitches about his little conspiracy theories and is generally a fairly annoying douche. He takes a reasonable message, which is "be careful with these crazy meds," and turns it into prosetylizing assholery, like "meds are bad, you are bad if you give meds, you are bad if you take meds, bwahahahaha!"

Now, is this study even CLOSE to the final word on giving kids under the age of 6 methylphenidate? Of COURSE not. I'm all for stern critique of giving kids with developing nervous systems a potentially neurotoxic chemical, especially when preschoolers don't really have such a great need to sit still until they get into graded school. But I'm even less for popular anti-psychiatry "the drug companies are trying to turn us into capital robots" conspiracy theory.


michael said...

call me stupid but why do preschoolers need ritalin? i didn't realize nose picking required concentration.

Garrett said...

I made a similar point in the post, and I agree. However, I've not been a parent, and I imagine that there are extremes that I can't imagine where therapy with ritalin might be preferable to something like risperdal. If it's "kid burns down house" vs "kid takes ritalin," I think the latter might look a little better. Again, an extreme.

Angry Dave said...

Dr. Peter Breggin does what he does because the vast majority of America is simply so clueless. He is trying to help people, and you take offense to that. He doesn't say you are bad for prescribing those meds, he says you're bad if you prescribe them knowing all the while exactly what it is they're capable of... and it has been proven that many do know the dangers, yet they prescribe them anyway. So don't throw around those false accusations as if you've read him like a book.