Chapter 12: The Basics of Argument
Lab Activity 60: Argument
To recognize the claim and support for an argument in a textbook selection.
Step 2: Read the following selection from a psychology textbook, and then answer the questions that follow.
Ritalin: Use or Abuse?
Doctors prescribe it, parents pass it out to children, and school nurses supervise the administration of it because all believe the pill will calm children and stop their disruptive behavior. It is methylphenidate. Best known by the brand name Ritalin, methylphenidate was introduced in 1956 and is a stimulant in the same class as amphetamines. Experts agree that it affects the midbrain, the part of the brain that controls impulses.
Advocates of Ritalin assert that the drug is a blessing and that it has helped those with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) concentrate. People diagnosed with ADHD are unable to sit still, plan ahead, finish tasks, or be fully aware of what's going on around them. To their family, classmates, or coworkers, they seem to exist in a cyclone of disorganized or harried activity. One of the most common mental disorders among children, it affects 3% to 5% of all children, perhaps as many as 2 million children in the United States. Two to three times more boys than girls are affected, and on average, at least one child in every classroom in the United States needs help for the disorder.
Ritalin allows the patient to focus better on the task at hand. Besides its use in treating the symptoms of ADHD, Ritalin is also prescribed for mild to moderate depression and in some cases of emotional withdrawal among elderly people. Initially Ritalin was used for children who were so restless that they were unreachable and unteachable. The National Institutes of Health support "the efficacy of stimulants and psychosocial treatments for ADHD and the superiority of stimulants relative to psychosocial treatments." The benefits of Ritalin are so strong that advocates say withholding the pills is a form of neglect. Those who claim diet, exercise, or other treatments work just as well are kidding themselves, say believers. A typical parental comment is the following:
But the situation is not all rosy. Critics say doctors who work with teachers to keep boisterous children in line misdiagnose students. As awareness of ADHD has grown, the characterization of the disorder now encompasses a much broader range of behaviors—an increasing number of children seem to have conditions that meet the definition of ADHD.
Ritalin production has increased by more than 700% since 1990. Since then disorders for which Ritalin is prescribed have jumped an average of 21% per year. Over the past five years alone, the number of prescriptions for Ritalin in the United States has jumped to 11.4 million from 4.5 million, including about 11% of all boys in the United States. Researchers claim a disturbing reliance upon the drug to solve problems that have other solutions.
Ritalin is classified as a Schedule II drug—on a par with cocaine, morphine, and metamphetamines—thus there is potential for abuse or dependence. Ritalin is widely misused by drug addicts, and it has associated with it a large number of suicides and emergency room admissions. The National Institutes of Health caution that "stimulant treatments may not 'normalize' the entire range of behavior problems, and children under treatment may still manifest a higher level of some behavior problems than normal children." They also note that there are no long-term studies testing stimulants or psychosocial treatments lasting several years.
Of course, an ADHD diagnosis can and often does lead to medication, special education facilities, and parental support groups. Today, children and teenagers with ADHD may be placed in a special classroom and eventually get nontimed college admission tests—about 40,000 SAT tests are administered this way each year. Are the ADHD diagnosis and the Ritalin treatment being used for the wrong reasons? by overzealous parents? by well-meaning physicians?
Is Ritalin effective? Yes, it is. Can it help children and teenagers with ADHD? Yes, it can, Are mistakes made in diagnosing ADHD? Of course. Is there overdiagnosis? Yes. Overdiagnosis usually occurs when a doctor is inexperienced, untrained, pressured, or predisposed to "find" ADHD. We need careful controlled research into the impact and long-term effects of Ritalin—and those studies are still a few years away. We also need physician, teacher, and parent education into ADHD and the use of Ritalin.
—Lofton & Brannon, Psychology, 8th ed., pp. 100–101.
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