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Voices: Voices on Identity, Childhood, Ethics and Stimulants

Children join the debate

Ritalin and other forms of enforcement and psychological policing are the contemporary equivalent of the old practice of tying up children’s hands in bed, so they won’t touch their genitals. The parent stupefies the child for the parent’s good.
Hanif Kureishi, writing in The
New York Times, February 2012

The goal of this report, and the accompanying ADHD and Me animations, is to inspire a fresh public conversation about the ethics of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis and stimulant drug treatments like Ritalin and Adderall. How will we accomplish this? We’re going to introduce you to the ADHD frontline: the children. After meeting them, you may not change your overall opinion about whether or not ADHD diagnosis and drug treatments are a good thing. But you will have a more informed, more balanced and more respectful understanding of what stimulant drug treatments do and why they are used, more empathy for kids who struggle with learning and behavioral issues, and a better idea of how to help children with ADHD.

The VOICES study (Voices On Identity, Childhood, Ethics and Stimulants) asked: Is there evidence to suggest that the use of stimulant drug treatments is unethical? Does Ritalin turn kids into zombies? Are children being drugged into obedience and conformity? How do we wade through the minefield of accusations to get to another vantage point on these sorts of questions?

Our answer was to go to children themselves, to get their perspectives. We don’t claim that children’s views are sufficient, in themselves, to resolve the debates over ADHD diagnosis and stimulant drug treatments. We do claim that children’s voices are essential to achieving a more realistic, more informed, more balanced, and more useful view on the ethics of ADHD diagnosis and stimulant drug treatments. This report depends on these voices to deliver key findings of the VOICES project to professionals who deal with children on a daily basis, to parents and to policy makers.