Thursday, October 11, 2012


CANTON, Ga. — When Dr. Michael Anderson hears about his low-income patients struggling in elementary school, he usually gives them a taste of some powerful medicine: Adderall. [The article says all four kids in one of Dr. Anderson’s patient families are treated with Adderall or an antipsychotic, Risperdal, and the sleep aid Clonidine to counteract the nocturnal stimulation caused by the other drugs.]

The pills boost focus and impulse control in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although A.D.H.D is the diagnosis Dr. Anderson makes, he calls the disorder “made up” and “an excuse” to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children’s true ill — poor academic performance in inadequate schools.

“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

Dr. Anderson has nailed a problem responsible for much of healthcare’s incredible cost—our tendency to treat social disorders with medications. When kids don’t focus well in school, it’s hardly ever because of a brain dysfunction. It’s because they’re hypersugared, underexcercised, and overexposed to a TV culture that reinforces short attention spans. A pediatrician I know treats ADHD by teaching the parents meditation.

We’re becoming a society bent on medicating virtually all behavior, either to minimize deficits or maximize performance. Last year a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute panel, concerned about the increasing rate of type two diabetes in young people, recommended that all kids over the age of nine have their serum tested for cholesterol levels, and those above normal take agents like Lipitor. To repeat Dr. Anderson’s conclusion, “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

This sort of strategy isn’t just ridiculously expensive; it’s expensively ridiculous. A deeper disorder than ADHD or youthful type two diabetes is our bovine submission to the medical-industrial complex. If we gave it any thought, we’d be outraged…but maybe that would require a longer attention span.

1 comment:

  1. It's no different with adults! Funny, when I had mild hypertension in my early thirties, I began a running program that solved that and I continue to this day. I never even considered taking meds.