Remembering Ritalin

A Doctor and Generation Rx Reflect on Life and Psychiatric Drugs

By Lawrence H. Diller, M.D. (Pedigree)

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Lawrence Diller is best known for sounding the alarm about doctors overdiagnosing ADD and overprescribing Ritalin, in his 1998 book Running on Ritalin. Despite his criticism of fellow doctors, Diller admits that he doled out his share of the popular stimulant to young patients.

Two years ago, when a patient’s mom asked how some of the kids mentioned in his first book are doing, Diller decided to reconnect with 10 of them, now ages 24 to 34. Remembering Ritalin was born. The short, happy answer to the mom’s question is: better than he’d expected. Only two of the 10-who Diller describes as “some of the most hyperactive kids I’d ever met”-are taking medicine for ADHD; nine of the 10 have jobs or are in graduate school; and one has done jail time. Among the group, there are two artists, a BMW car mechanic, a realtor, a caterer, and a policeman.

Many of the 10 found light at the end of the tunnel once they got beyond adolescence. Why? They received a lot of parental support, tapped into a wide range of educational resources, and received outside counseling.

Where does Ritalin fit into their success? “I never said Ritalin is bad,” says Diller. Medication may help children do better in school, which makes them feel better about themselves. “But a pill, even when it works, isn’t the same as addressing the child’s needs in ways that engage him.”

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