SIT STILL AND BEHAVE YOURSELF
Though it goes back a lot of years, I remember my childhood. I qualified as a high strung youngster and specifically recall my principal mode of foot travel by age four: full gallop. When seated, my hands and feet moved constantly. Whatever deficiencies I exhibited did not include a lack of energy. And I tend to recollect how, in conjunction with the gyrations, my thoughts joined into the action. No doubt many of the sensations passing through my head during those years reflected my tempo. Naturally, growing up exuberantly insured full occupation for my mother, for when I ran, she ran close behind. Though I don’t recall the instance, I’m told I once bolted across Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive during rush hour, only to be pulled to safety within inches of a fast moving taxi. Luckily I avoided serious mishaps during those hyperactive years. Thereafter as I entered adolescence, my bodily functions naturally slowed down, and I’ll concede now, after many decades, everything is much slower, indeed.
Gazing back in retrospect, it occurs other children displayed a similar zest for activity, dictating a common parental admonition of the day: “Sit still and behave yourself.” Since many of my friends and classmates acted, to a greater or lesser degree as did I, we must conclude these traits are not unique. This, then, leads me to a revelation. Profitable moneymaking operations impress me, and I’m particularly intrigued when an innovative approach is employed. Well, I’ve considered various possibilities and think I’ve come up with a winner. Picture this, if you will. Suppose we establish ourselves in the child counseling business and are able to sell the idea children who exhibit such characteristics as finger tapping, whistling, scratching or stretching, fidgeting, displaying high energy levels, and exhibiting boredom in the classroom, are seriously disturbed and need our services. You see, by simply defining many childhood traits as a disorder, we create a mass of customers who need our help. The opportunities are truly exciting. With a concerted effort, including the coining of an impressive name for the ailment, then lobbying the government to fund its treatment through such programs as the Americans with Disabilities Act, and finally establishing a prestigious national association of practitioners to treat the afflicted, there’s no limit to the possibilities. There must be millions of youngsters, particularly boys, who display those symptoms. If we can swing it, each child will require our counseling right through puberty.
Hmm, it just occurred, if we hope pull off this charade, we’ll need to enlist the support of the nation’s mental health practitioners. Our contention bright and active children are somehow seriously maladjusted will need to be corroborated by some prestigious organization. Let’s see, who might we approach to anoint our project? By George, I’ve got it. What better groups might we get to back up our claims than the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association? As both will benefit financially from countless hours of counseling to be sold, they’ll probably be willing to throw in with us.
Oh, oh, I’ve just spotted a fly in the ointment. A distinct drawback in treating this spurious ailment will be actually demonstrating some behavior modification. What shall we do? Ah ha, I think I’ve figured how it can be arranged. We’ll need a medication to suppress normal childhood traits, and I know of one that will work. It’s methyl-a-phenyl-2-piperi-dineeacetate hydrochloride, known commercially as Ritalin. An oral dose of 50 mg lasts about 4 hours, so we’ll prescribe it four times daily. With any luck, the overall quantities required will be immense, so we’re certain to get a favorable endorsement from the pharmaceutical industry, which assuredly will be the driving force for our success. Though it causes a few inconvenient side effects such as appetite suppression and insomnia, we can overcome this problem by simply administering a sleeping pill at bedtime … an added inducement for the drug companies to endorse our legitimacy.
I’ll concede there may be a few imponderables in all this. I’m not sure what long-term effects there may be in keeping a child perpetually drugged during the developing years. To put things in context, another medication somewhat akin to Ritalin, Eli Lilly’s Strattera, at one time drew the attention of the Food and Drug Administration by its possible suicide inducing propensity. Nonetheless, if the potential profits for the drug companies are sufficient, they’ll likely find a way to assure the public their product is safe. Possibly they can arrange tests demonstrating no evidence of any sort of risk. If this approach doesn’t quite swing it, perhaps in compliance with FDA guidelines they can announce a black-box warning will be added to the drug’s label. As no one except a tort lawyer reads those labels anyway, that ought to satisfy almost everyone.
Yes, indeed, I’m elated with the fine program I’ve devised. I can’t see any disadvantages at all – at least none I’m willing to discuss. However, you know what they say: To make an omelet you’ve gotta break a few eggs. Of course, I’m glad no one dreamed up a program like this when I was a kid. What with my high energy, I’d have been one of its victims for sure. After a half-dozen or more years counseled to act abnormally, while pumped full of God knows what, there’s no way to predict the resultant brain scrabbling. Under such circumstances, growing up becomes a nightmare, and there’s no way to know what the final adult product will be … but perhaps this is just something we’d better not think about.
♦ ♦ ♦
As the Scot poet Robert Burns once said, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I’m disappointed to learn I’m not the first person to come up with this clever scheme. I’ve been beaten to the punch by whoever devised the Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) ailment, since revised to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It appears medical literature described ailments similar to ADHD since the 19th century, with the condition officially known as attention deficit disorder (ADD) from 1980 to 1987, while before then it was referred to as hyperkinetic reaction of childhood. And although I’ve missed the boat on this one, my analysis was certainly correct, for as recently as 2015 there existed 51.1 million diagnosed cases in the United States.
And equally accurate was my take on the pharmaceutical industry. In 2008 five major firms received warnings from the FDA regarding false advertising and inappropriate activities related to ADHD medication. In addition, a well-known ADHD researcher who published diagnostic guidelines received criticism because he received payment from pharmaceutical companies for speaking and consultancy fees. In addition, a frequently cited Harvard ADHD expert failed to report to Harvard he received $1.6 million from various drug companies between 2000 and 2007. And lastly, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, an ADHD advocacy group based in Landover, MD received in 2007 a total of $1,169,000 (26% of their budget) from pharmaceutical companies. Evidently, some things never change.
In any event, my idea was right on the mark; perhaps next time I’ll come up with something I can actually put into operation.