Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Libby Purvis on Ritalin and ADHD

Make that Libby Purves.

BBC Radio 4's voice of astringent good sense has an article in today's Times on the subject:

it is reported that prescriptions of the drug Methylphenidate - commonly sold as Ritalin - have risen sharply in a decade. Last year in England there were 359,000, the vast majority to children under 16. This is a mind-altering drug, described by its most bitter opponents as "prescription crack"; in the United States 6 per cent of all children take it. Here it is less than 1 per cent, but rising fast: for this is the cure-all for the fairly newly defined condition of "ADHD" - attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
She is as concerned with this as I am, and takes a similar line to the one I took in an article in OpenMind a couple of years ago.

The only thing I would question is the implication behind her:

sometimes I wonder whether future generations may not look back at our habits and shudder in their turn.
I hope they will do just that. But if they don't, our habits are still wrong.

Beware of what Popper calls "moral futurism" - the belief that what comes later must necessarily be better. Whether it stems from a belief in Liberal Progress, in Divine Providence or in Marxist metaphysics, it is mistaken.

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