Contrôlé par Ritalinjanuari 4, 2020
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Claire Leblon had brought her son Niels, 11, to see child psychiatrist Gabriel Wahl about his performance and behaviour at school. While they were in the waiting room, the boy started to fidget; he got up from his chair, sat down again, then grabbed his mother’s phone and began swiping through photos of cities, his latest obsession (after streetlights, dustbins and lorries.) Then he dropped the phone with a loud clatter.
Leblon, a team leader at a big hotel in the Paris area, was at the end of her tether. She saw this behaviour as more proof that her son was unmanageable, out of control. A few years ago, she learned the perfect word to describe him: ‘hyperactive’.
Wahl is ‘a big shot’ in his field. He is a frequent guest on national radio shows, has articles published in the medical and mainstream press, and has written many books on academic failure, precociousness, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Wahl’s go-to remedy is Ritalin, a psychotropic drug made from methylphenidate, synthesised in 1944 by Italian chemist Leandro Panizzon, who named it after his wife Marguerite (‘Rita’; she took it to improve her stamina and concentration when playing tennis). On the day of Niels Leblon’s appointment, 13 April 2019, all Wahl’s patients went home with a prescription for the drug.
Ritalin is a flagship product for its manufacturer Novartis (which reported revenue of $52bn in 2018). Methylphenidate is an amphetamine derivative that increases dopamine production in the brain. It has been called a ‘smart drug’, ‘obedience drug’ or ‘kiddy coke’, and is advertised as relieving a range of symptoms in adults and children, from bridling at boring tasks to lack of attention, inability to concentrate, or rejection of authority; it is supposed to enhance cerebral performance and make children more tractable at home and at school.
‘It’s a preventive, not a cure’
Wahl admits ‘Ritalin doesn’t (…)
Full article: 3 329 words.
Julien Brygo is a journalist and co-author, with Olivier Cyran, of Boulots de merde! Du cireur au trader, enquête sur l’utilité et la nuisance sociales des métiers (Bullshit jobs: from Shoeshiners to Traders), La Découverte Poche, Paris, 2018.
(2) Prescrire, which criticises a ‘lack of medium- and long-term studies on the effects of methylphenidate’, has published many articles warning of the side-effects of this drug, ‘in widespread use despite its dangers’, and likens its use to ‘doping children’ (no 406, Paris, August 2017).
(3) Figures for 2011. ‘State profiles — Medication treatment and behavior therapy among children ages 4-17 years (survey data)’, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(4) Amelia M Arria and Robert L DuPont, ‘Prescription stimulant use and misuse: Implications for responsible prescribing practices’, The American Journal of Psychiatry, vol 175, no 8, Washington DC, August 2018.
(5) Alan D DeSantis and Audrey Curtis Hane, ‘ “Adderall is definitely not a drug”: Justifications for the illegal use of ADHD stimulants’, Substance Use & Misuse, vol 45, Informa Healthcare, 2010.
(6) Some speakers requested anonymity.
(7) The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition: DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, sets out criteria for the diagnosis of mental disorders.
(8) In 2015 an audit found that Truesdail Laboratories had concealed seven cases of racehorses testing positive for methylphenidate (used as a doping agent).
(10) Edith Bracho-Sanchez, ‘Young people on amphetamines for ADHD have twice the psychosis risk compared to other stimulants, study says’, CNN, 20 March 2019.