Ritalin Roundtable
I found your article on Ritalin ["Ritalin on Trial," by Michael Berryhill, January 4] to be very interesting. However, I am very disappointed that the article seemed to only cover those cases where Ritalin was improperly prescribed, or the problem was misdiagnosed. I hate to think that by reading your article, some children would possibly miss out on the benefits afforded when this drug is properly prescribed.

My 13-year-old son presently is taking Ritalin and has taken it since he was eight. His doctor has used every precaution to assure the drug did not harm his growth, being as he is small for his age (coming from both mother and father being below average height). My son started out on five milligrams twice a day, taken five days a week for school only, and is taken off on weekends and through the summer. He has only this school year been increased to seven and a half milligrams twice a day. While my son has at times complained of stomachaches, the problem was solved by his taking the medication after eating, and not on an empty stomach.

Without this drug, my son is unable to function to his full potential. We have tried trial periods of not taking the medication, during which his grades fell drastically and he could not control his behavior. Before going on Ritalin, my son had been held back one year and was still a year and a half behind in reading. On the medication, his behavior in school is good, and he has improved in all areas of his studies, even making honor roll at times, not to mention that his whole mental outlook is much better. Before starting on the medication, my son would come home crying, saying he was too stupid to learn and could not do anything right. He now experiences disappointment, but continues to work toward his goals.

Angela R. Conger

I can only tell you about my experience with giving Ritalin to my son Michael, who was diagnosed as having ADHD at three and a half years of age. Like so many other parents, I was against giving him Ritalin, mainly because of misleading articles like yours. He was hurting kids at his daycare, some badly, because of his impulsive behavior. Other children would not play with him, other parents were scolding him and, at three and a half to four years of age, you could see this poor little guy's self-esteem go right down the tubes.

After one week where he hurt 21 other children, two seriously (he caused them to bleed), we decided something had to be done. We tried Ritalin.

That was nine months ago. Today he is not hurting anyone. He has friends and the trust of his teachers. He is not a zombie. He is more interesting, interested and creative than ever, and his self-esteem appears to be intact.

These people who have ADHD are not bad. They are not faking it and they can possibly be helped with Ritalin. They suffer from a real disorder. Please tell a little more from my son's side next time you write about ADHD, and don't make people so afraid to try something that might help them.

John C. Feuk

Thank you for your revealing article on Ritalin. While the drug has been shown to have a favorable effect on some children with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, many medical people as well as parents are questioning its use/overuse, as well as the convenient diagnosis of ADHD.

Several years ago, my wife worked in a children's dentist office and witnessed the wholesale use of Ritalin. In her opinion, the vast majority of uses were because parents simply didn't have the time, patience and will to deal with the normal activity, curiosity and problems of their children. Both parents worked in most of these households, and so often had children who didn't receive the attention they needed. In part because of their hectic work schedules, the parents didn't have time to deal with their children's "acting up."

The gross overuse of Ritalin represents, I believe, nothing less than the increasing rate of divorce of parents from their children in our country. Could this be a byproduct of our "new economy" where both parents work, wanting peace and quiet when off work?

I wonder how many of these families are part of the Rush Limbaugh "family values" crowd who rail against the degeneration of the family as they sacrifice true morality in their worship of the almighty dollar?

There is a great values problem in America today. It involves the very people who gain the most politically from largely red herring charges and finger pointing. Our crisis in values is as endemic and tenacious as corporate America and the mass media which serve it.

And it is as transparent as we wish it to be.
Thomas Cunningham

"Ritalin on Trial" is one of the many examples of articles condemning a drug based on erroneous facts and information. Interviews of persons with no medical background or experience are quoted as persons of authority, such as Steven Keene. Let me first say that there are many problems with the use of Ritalin. One is the influence of teachers on the medication process. According to your article, teachers are telling the physicians that the dosage needs to be increased. The relationship should work the other way around. Let me also say that Ritalin is misused by many parents and physicians. Ritalin is not a drug that cures learning disabilities, controls unruly behavior or makes a child smarter. Ritalin is also not a drug for all children. It is a drug that enables some children to pay attention for longer periods of time. The families that your article mentioned are an inadequate representation of the many families that have been helped by Ritalin -- such as the Hubbards, who were mentioned briefly in your sidebar article "Positive Diagnosis."

ADD was once described to me by one of my patients as the excitement a child feels right before Christmas. They have a huge amount of unfocused energy. Ritalin allows a child to focus his energy on specific tasks, and to remain focused until the task is completed. When the correct dosage is prescribed and the teachers, doctors and parents work in conjunction to ensure the most effective treatment, Ritalin can often help a child get better academic marks and, most important, improve their self-esteem. Ritalin should not be on trial. Rather, the cooperation of teachers, parents and physicians should be scrutinized.

Name withheld by request

Editor's reply: One small point: Steven Keene's "authority" on the subject would seem to derive from the fact that he's the father of a child for whom the drug has been prescribed.

Is Ritalin Available in Washington County?
With some amusement I read Jim Simmon's sophomoric hatchet job on Representative Steve Stockman [Editor's Notes, "Lil' Stevie's Year in Review," December 28]. While not totally familiar with all of Representative Stockman's views, I sense a tone of jealousy in Mr. Simmon's editorial. Could it be that Mr. Simmon is upset because Congressman Stockman was able to get an article published in Guns & Ammo magazine? Besides having the unspeakable audacity to support the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Representative Stockman compounded his sin by actually having his opinions published. Mr. Simmon has probably been trying to get published in Pravda or the N.A.M.B.L.A. newsletter for quite some time, but apparently they kept turning him down. I am certain that if Representative Stockman were a card-carrying communist (or at least a Fabian socialist), homosexual, environmentalist fanatic, militant transvestite atheist with a penchant for young boys, no doubt Mr. Simmon would be lauding his "progressive" foresight. Of course, I can't lay all the blame for this on Mr. Simmon. He has to make money, and since the Houston Press caters primarily to Marxist, multicultural, New Age, secular humanist pseudo-intellectuals, he knows on which side his bread is buttered.

Darrin B. Lewer

A Lawyer's Pay
Your article on Vietnamese commando veterans [News, "The Last Battle of Chau Minh Nguyen," by Randall Patterson, January 4] stinks of another attorney about to make millions on someone else's suffering. Just how much was it worth to those Vietnamese to be here in America? Has anyone calculated what it has cost the U.S. government (us) to sustain these people until they could get back on their feet? How much has Mr. Mattes contributed to the well-being of these unknown commandos?

Mr. Mattes should now start looking for other ex-commandos of WWII from Europe whom the U.S. supported so that he might sue us (the U.S. government) for compensation for their services while they were in prison camps or killed. Now there would be a hefty compensation for him!

Hopefully, Mr. Mattes is old enough to have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and has done more than just sue people!

H. Montalway


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