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“Ritalin Is Not the Cause of School Gun Violence”

ADHD expert Dr. William Dodson fires back at the assertion by Oliver North that Ritalin use by young men is at least partially to blame for the hundreds of children killed by gun violence in American schools since Columbine.

Last Sunday morning, I woke up to this headline: “Oliver North Blames School Shootings on Ritalin.”

It is hard to know where to start when there are so many outrageous and hypocritical statements crammed in together so closely. During his Fox News Sunday appearance, the controversial in-coming President of the NRA, Oliver North, blamed the combination of Ritalin and the “culture of violence” for the remarkable series of 22 school shootings thus far in 2018.

Specifically, he said, “And the disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence… They’ve been drugged in many cases. Nearly all of these perpetrators are male… Many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten.”

This is a classic tactic of people who intentionally produce false news; they make two true statements with which reasonable people would agree and then insert a lie that would appeal to the extreme prejudice of the audience. North starts with the acknowledgement that there is a national culture of violence (for which the NRA is the chief apologist) and then adds that males are usually the perpetrators of such violence, which is also unarguably true. He then inserts the lie for which there is no evidence: that the medications used to treat ADHD were to blame for these senseless acts of violence.

The truth is that, without exception, all 26 available studies of “aggression” and ADHD medication show a dramatic DECREASE in aggressive behaviors when ADHD stimulant medications are used. Mr. North’s shameless and hypocritical shifting of the blame for the level of violence to our children can not be excused or allowed to pass unchallenged. To do so would allow them to be misunderstood, marginalized, and demonized more than they already are.

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  1. Saddened, yes. Shocked, no. He joins the ranks of ‘people who post stupid comments about things they don’t know’. He made himself look like an idiot. Serves him right.

  2. Dr. Dodson, have you responded formally to Oliver North or HuffPost? The sensationalist headline alone seems liable to expose ADHD patients to questioning, criticism, or feelings of shame over this nonsense.

    The article fails to significantly address the inaccuracy of North’s claim (which isn’t phrased so directly as the headline would make it seem.) Have you made efforts to correct the error? The article’s commment section is full of confusion and misinformation, but little malice. Readers would surely appreciate and benefit from a brief clarification by an expert.

    It’s been several days, but I think any step to prevent fallout from reaching patients is critical. I’m particularly concerned about teenage boys who may be seriously stigmatized and bullied over this exact claim. I hope someone has publicly spoken up for them.

    1. The less attention given this the better. This is just another diversion tactic by the NRA to blame everything else. Let it die with the Many gun companies who have filed for bankruptcy since DJT was elected. No doubt the Mueller enquiry will be closing in on the NRA for illegal donations and or Money Laundering soon and Ollie will be unemployed and or in prison again.

  3. The less attention given this the better. This is just another diversion tactic by the NRA to blame everything else. Let it die with the Many gun companies who have filed for bankruptcy since DJT was elected. No doubt the Mueller enquiry will be closing in on the NRA for illegal donations and or Money Laundering soon and Ollie will be unemployed and or in prison again.

  4. Is there a possibility that stimulants for someone that does not really have ADHD could cause a problem. Much of the public thinks meds for ADHD are over prescribed and that would be devastating for all the people that are not currently treated that should be. I would suspect correct diagnosis rate was probably better than average for the studies. We do know the stimulants have a paradoxical effect on people with ADHD than the effect on neurotypical people. Are there studies of the effects of stimulants in general?

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