Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New York Times Bashes ADHD Once Again

One could easily come to the conclusion that someone on the New York Times Opinion Pages staff has had a very negative experience with ADHD and is on a crusade to blame parents. Just weeks after printing a highly misleading article, “Ritalin Gone Wrong” by Alan Sroufe, the front page of the Opinion section now has a philosophical essay by playwright Hanif Kureishi titled “The Art of Distraction.” Once again someone who has no expertise in ADHD is making highly misleading statements about ADHD and Ritalin.
Don’t get me wrong—I am not pushing medication. CHADD strongly recommends that the decision to choose medication is a personal decision between the patient, the family, and the doctor. Thousands of people deal successfully with the symptoms of ADHD without medication, just as thousands find medication an important part of the treatment process. My own son has been on medication and off of medication, depending on the demands of his life and his coping skills. The decision to medicate or not has to be made based upon the individual needs of the person with ADHD. But that decision should be made based upon good information, not claptrap. And that is my problem with the New York Times, which once again is giving front-page status to utter nonsense in the Sunday Review op/ed section.
So let’s be clear about the facts. When an ADHD medication works properly, there is no stupor and no restraint on creativity. Anyone who experiences a stupor should be visiting his or her doctor immediately. ADHD medications should help your brain to work more effectively. This is not a chemical straightjacket, but rather an opportunity to avoid the many negative consequences of untreated ADHD, such as school failure and a miserable childhood.
The author describes his own troubled childhood, the difficulties his own son is having in school now, and a mythical “Ritalin Boy,” and concludes that suffering and a distracted mind can lead to creativity. In his most appalling passage Kureishi states, “Ritalin and other forms of enforcement and psychological policing are the contemporary equivalent of the old practice of tying up children’s hands in bed, so they won’t touch their genitals. The parent stupefies the child for the parent’s good.” Listen up, folks: According to the New York Times, any parent of a child with ADHD has plopped the child in the bathtub without prior warning, thereby disrupting the wiring of the brain (“Ritalin Gone Wrong”); and, if a parent is so misguided to as to use medication, that parent is chemically restraining the child in the most vulgar terms (“The Art of Distraction”).
In another section, Kureishi describes this as “a moral issue rather than a scientific one; values are at stake here—not facts.” This is in fact both a moral issue and a scientific, factual one. Would we deny a child with diabetes access to insulin because the struggle with their health and potential death would be inspiring? Would we refuse to allow a child to see properly with a pair of glasses, because the resulting visual haziness might lead to some artistic creativity? How could the New York Times continue to be so irresponsible? This is so much more than adding insult to injury. This is gross negligence and does irreparable harm. Fortunately the members of CHADD know this is nonsense, but I worry greatly about the family new to ADHD that reads such garbage and assumes that it must be credible if it appears in the New York Times.
In full disclosure please note that following the publication of “Ritalin Gone Wrong,” CHADD sent a letter to the editor and an opinion/editorial article by Max Wiznitzer, MD, a member of CHADD’s Professional Advisory Board. Neither was published.
So what are we to do? Well, there are several things that can be done—and we need your help.
1.       Take a moment to go to the comment section at the end of the article and tell the New York Times what you know about ADHD.
2.       Send an email to the public editor, expressing your dismay at the incredibly irresponsible behavior of the New York Times op-ed staff.
3.       If you are by chance an advertiser in the Times, please take note. Reconsider sending your advertising dollars to a business that regularly spreads highly prejudicial misinformation.
We cannot allow such blatant misinformation and discrimination to continue to thrive. Please take a moment to act on behalf of all those you love who have ADHD.
Ruth Hughes, PhD, is the CEO of CHADD.

24 comments:

Kevin said...

To call this prejudicial misinformation from the NYT is hypocritical. You are obviously pro drug. This Oped isn't pro drug. It's a good debate. But calling for a advertising boycott of the NYT only shows your intolerance for opposing views in the debate.

mawaubergine said...

What is the percentage of people suffering from ADHD who are untreated and end up self-medicating with alcohol and/or drugs? Something like 75% is my recollection.

mawaubergine said...

Reminds me of the old myth about alcohol being a muse for great writers. So for heaven's sake, don't get treatment!

joy said...

Thanks, I too was alarmed and upset by the NYT articles, and I hope CHADD continues to hold the paper accountable for irresponsible journalism.

Anonymous said...

To make matters worse, The New York Times is no longer accepting comments on the article. They seem to have done so after a few folks had the nerve to post negative - yet articulate and well worded - comments (one from an MD)!! Talk about one-sided! The Editors at the NYT are being incredibly irresponsible and I for one will never again pick up one of their rags!

Gina Pera said...

"Claptrap" is right, Dr. Hughes.

The New York Times has a very long history of bashing psychiatry. The situation has grown beyond distressing and is approaching actionable.

I'm not sure why the paper refuses to enter the 21st Century (or even the 20th); perhaps the editors and reporters never took a science class.

But I am starting to suspect that there is a method to its provocation: Look at the frenzy of links created so that the public can view the Old Gray Lady's latest attack on a medical issue that can devastate lives.

What The New York Times editors might not realize is that their blatant ignorance and stigma-producing bias creates doubt about the rest of their reporting's legitimacy.

Anonymous said...

The closed the comments to the article on the website. Very telling.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like something that paper would do. Ive been raising a child with ADHD. Unless you experience the challenges of ADHD, no has the right to make their own opinion not even.a.newspaper. Keep up the good work CHADD!

mawaubergine said...

I would like to see a story about how certain disorders become "discovered," then trendy and then there is a backlash against the diagnosis. I think there is a definite pattern that a little research could tease out.

Peter Guerin said...

As someone who has ADHD myself, I find these article rather disturbing. It seems we're on the verge of a new attack against people who have ADHD. There are Tea Party folks who complain about children getting SSI/Social Security Disability due to ADHD and blaming them for the nation's fiscal troubles. You have the trolls at Encyclopedia Dramatica who make fun of people with ADHD and other mental conditions at the drop of the hat. There has been an increase in bullying of children with ADHD in school.

Sadly these people aren't going to be happy until they turn back the clock forty or fifty years to the time people like me were locked up in mental institutions--out of sight, out of mind--or if we were lucky we were taught in a separate school from the "normal" school in what was clearly educational apartheid for people like me.

This is why we need the neurodiversity movement, mad pride, MindFreedom International and the National Empowerment Center to conteract the lies and mistreatment people like me increasingly face. We must not go back to the Dark Ages where people like me were treated like savage animals all because there was something wrong with our minds!

Remember, nothing about us without us! Neurodiversity forever!

Erika said...

I think it is ideal when we can accept each other's differences and celebrate our gifts. To see gifts in individuals that have clear deficits in other areas is dignifying and Christ-like. To that end, I enjoyed the recent NYT article. The danger is in not acknowledging the serious implications that can come with ADHD and the benefit many derive from medication. There are statistics that reveal the significantly increased risk of suicide attempts, drug and alcohol abuse, and incarceration for individuals that have serious symptoms of ADHD, especially amongst those that were never treated. One source for this information is: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/10/04/health.adhd.depression.risk/index.html. Due to the very serious nature of this issue, I think it was irresponsible of the New York Times op-ed staff to publish these recent articles. I certainly hope that some accurate articles will be published that will give statistics to raise awareness, as well as experiences and opinions of those who found their ADHD to be debilitating rather than just "creativity producing". I followed CHADD's advice and sent an email to the publishing editor, Arthur Brisbane at 'public@nytimes.com' and gave him my opinion.

Kathy said...

I find this such irresponsible journalism! I am a certified school nurse and nurse educator. I have three children, two older girls who are all American athletic scholars ,the oldest now in a doctoral program . My youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD at five! We put him on medication , reluctantly at the ripe old age of five! The result was almost immediate! He told me " mommy my brain feels so much better" . He is now twelve, and attends a small ,yet very expensive school for children with learning difficulties.
For anyone to tell me " I 'm not a good parent" come to my house! I have not worked for 8 years so I can be my son's constant ,to give him a routine and structure,he so rightly deserves, because I am his parent,he is MY responsibility, it is MY responsibility to guide him to be successful in whatever he can do. I would NEVER wish this diagnosis on anyone ,it is challeging for the entire family involved! How dare this" journalist" and I use that term lightly publish an article on a disorder he obviously knows nothing about! It sickens me!
Kathleen Pastore, RN,BSN, CSN

ange said...

AD/HD awareness on everyone's part is key. Thank goodness for CHADD. Shame on the NYT!

Concerned Long Island FireFighter said...

I personally don't read that rag of a paper anyway,the only people I know that pick it up are the one's who think they're important. The only papers worth reading in NYC are the "Daily News" and the "NY Post" and on long Island its "Newsday"

Concerned Long Island FireFighter said...

My son was Diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome some years ago, so I have a connection here.

Pam C said...

This is extremely frustrating! And now you can't even leave a comment for this NYT Op-Ed. Can't believe how unbalanced their approach is.

Jeffs ADD Mind said...

"CHADD sent a letter to the editor and an opinion/editorial article by Max Wiznitzer, MD, a member of CHADD’s Professional Advisory Board." Can you post these items on the blog? I'm sure there are many who would want to read them.

ddonegan said...

It always amazes me that if a child "looks" normal, then there can be no issues. It is poor parenting or a bratty child blah blah blah. ADHD is a REAL condition that occurs in the frontal lobes of the brain and 80% of people with ADHD have co occuring conditions. I am sick of people's opinions and even sicker that a newspaper would spew such misinformation.

ange said...

I have two children who both have AD/HD. My own mother has NOT read AD/HD articles or listened to me help her understand my children's needs. However, she read the terrible NYT article and it made quite a negative impression on her. Thanks to the NYT, my mother told me that she feels I take the easy way out by giving my children meds. My children both have severe AD/HD and I believe in a multi-modal approach. AD/HD has interfered with their self-esteem, social and academic ability. I do what I feel is best for my children.

Anonymous said...

The autor of the article had a horrible childhood and resent it.
Now his child had the fortuned to had been diagnosted in time to be treated and him, instead of been happy, he doesn't like it! What can be worst? I am sorry for the child.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, a large number of people who come across this article will "consider the source."

Anonymous said...

Sitting here listening to "Science Friday" with Ira Flatow on National Public Radio. Very likely that there are New York Times readers that tune into this program too. Why not educate the public about ADHD -- and the science behind it -- on credible, fact-based programs like Science Friday? It's time to get creative about how we educate the public about ADHD. The autism community is effective at this -- resulting in much less stigma now. Please do something so our children do not grow up feeling ashamed for taking meds to thrive.

Anonymous said...

As an educator, and a parent of a now 18 year old with ADD, I am appalled at what the NYT has said about ADHD. The first comment I received from my son after medication was tried was," Today in school I answered so many questions!". My child has ADD-inattentive, and for him to do that speaks volumes. I teach at a school for the gifted, where IQ and talent is high. We have our share of ADHD kids who are not on meds and can't cut it. There progress and creativity is held back because of a lack of action. Also, in order to get through this unjust school system, at times it is the ONLY answer.-Lori

David Young said...

This is typical response from someone who obviously didn't struggle with ADHD. Is it over diagnosed ? Sure it is. Are their people who really struggle with ADHD. Absolutely. As a child I struggled in school. Paddlings everyday and on occasion in every class in one day. Suspended sent to alternative school for 2 weeks. I was in the principals office regularly. I struggled with homework and grades even failing or being held back. They tested me to qualify me for a learning disability program. Much to everyones surprise the instructor told them I probably had the highest IQ in the school. After sending me to a psychological Dr. they diagnosed me with ADHD. No one in our area knew anything about this. After much counseling and plenty of home remedies( from tough love,Dr. Pepper, to a spoonful of peanut butter) nothing seemed to work so my parents basically just let me go. After failing in middle school I skipped most of my highschool days and spent a lot if time getting drunk or high. I had several suicide attempts but most were just a cry out and not an actual attempt. I got into being an adrenaline junky because when my adrenaline was flowing my head was more clear than any other time. I struggled through a 15 year marriage where when I wasn't immersed totally in raising my 2 boys I was looking for someone to cheat on my wife with. My teen age alcohol, drugs, and adrenaline had turned into sex addiction. I always worked but was never able to keep the same job more than a couple years due to attendance, and productivity ( basically boredom). I went through a divorce. Then I met a wonderful women who was a nurse and had plenty of patience and an ability to learn and teach me things about myself that I never knew. Trying to overcome issues associated with adult ADHD isn't easy. After starting nursing school I realized that my focus and attention problems from childhood schooling were still there. At 39 years old I took my first medication for ADHD. From almost giving up cause I just couldn't do my homework and assignments to being at the top of class. My medication helps with focus and memory. I've noticed that memory and retention are my biggest problems as an adult. I am a Nurse now. I have struggled with a bipolar like condition all my life(which I learned is because of ADHD) but for the first time as a whole I feel better about myself than I ever have. I still struggle with sleeping because after a day of nursing my mind takes a long time to unwind. But with Gods help the future is looking brighter. And hey I did focus long enough to type this so God is good and amazing.