Chat Transcript: Dr. Peter Breggin on Ritalin and Kids

If the problem is in school but not at home, you have a more complicated situation. Schools can be very unresponsive to the needs of children. You should explain to the school that you do not favor medication, that there are many doctors who are against giving stimulants to children, and that you want to work with the school in engaging your child's interests and imagination. You should explain to the school that you will obtain any necessary psychological evaluation privately, and that you don't want the school evaluating your child except with tests given routinely to all children. Furthermore, a change of teachers or schools often completely solves a child's school problem.

Do not accept blaming your child's brain; instead, insist that the school work with you to find ways to solve your child's education problems. And finally, if your child is out of control in class, you need to visit the classroom and spend time there, both to observe your child and to invest the classroom with your authority. Very likely your child is undisciplined at home, and if you get good advice on how to handle that problem, it will carry over into school.

Matt L. from at 1:44pm ET

When a physician is diagnosing ADD/ADHD, should a complete evaluation by a pediatric psychologist be routine?

Dr. Peter Breggin at 1:47pm ET

Hold on to your hat, because I'm going to say something that may be hair-raising! You should not have your child evaluated by medical specialists of any kind for emotional or psychological problems unless you can be certain that they don't believe in psychiatric drugs. To take your child to any medical doctor with even a hint of a behavioral problem, nowadays the vast majority of time will result in a knee-jerk prescription of stimulant medication.

The more experienced and specialized the physician or mental-health specialist holds themselves out to be, the more likely they are professionally and financially invested in making the ADHD diagnosis and in prescribing drugs. Before seeking professional help, screen people by phone to make sure that they will help you in regard to the kind of parenting and teaching your child is receiving, and that they favor psychological and educational approaches, rather than medical ones.

Michael from at 1:48pm ET

Does ADD/ADHD go away as a child gets older?

Dr. Peter Breggin at 1:50pm ET

Since ADHD is not a valid disorder, it is not possible to give a scientific response to the question. However, in general, if a child is distressed and in conflict with the adults in his/her life, it is important to help that child before these problems continue into adulthood. However, doctors have no scientific basis for frightening parents by telling them that their children will have a "bad outcome" in adulthood if they are not medicated. In fact, studies that show a "bad outcome" for children diagnosed with ADHD were conducted on children who were given stimulants at a research clinic. Therefore, the correct conclusion is that taking stimulants as a child may lead to a "bad outcome" in adulthood.

Dr. Peter Friedrichs from at 1:51pm ET

Is it possible many of these children have nervous system dysfunction that when corrected, they can resume a more normal behavior?

Dr. Peter Breggin at 1:53pm ET

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