Two Million Customers = Good Business =
Thatís pretty much whatís been going on for the last 10-15 years. The first person to describe children with attention deficit disorder as "hunters in a farmers world" was Thom Hartmann, author of over a dozen books on A.D.D. and ADHD. Since then, Johns Hopkins researchers have reiterated this theory that kids and adults with Attention deficit disorder have characteristics that work very well for hunters and not very well for farmers. And lets face it, teachers and administrators in the average school classroom want neat, organized, docile, neatly lined up in a row farmer types, not free-ranging, roving, intense when on the track of game, hunters.
So, the pharmaceutical companies came up with a multi-billion dollar profit solution. Drug these millions of kids. Turn them into obedient, neat and organized little farmers who pay attention to boring teachers, who sit quietly, who paint inside the lines, who donít wander off the beaten path. The US consumes more Ritalin, the most commonly prescribed ADHD stimulant drug, than all the rest of the world combined.
But itís not fair to just blame the teachers and administrators and pharmaceutical companies. There are all those doctors who write the prescriptions and all the parents who ask for them to be written. Well, not all parents ask to have their kids doped up. Some donít like the idea. Some seek alternatives, and they are out there.
Itís outrageous, but with a "plague" of ADHD affecting millions of kids, costing billions of dollars in drugs, medical visits, special educational services, youíd think that at least millions of dollars would be spent on research on ways to help these kids without drugs. But it doesnít work that way. The pharmaceutical companies do research, using their profits. But the schools get money for "special needs" children. So they donít necessarily have the incentive to mainstream them.
One approach to ADHD that is non-drug is neurofeedback. Itís a simple concept. Train the brain to be less excited so as to reduce the hyperactivity and at the same time, train the brain to decrease the proportion of distractable brain waves while increasing the proportion of alert and attentive brainwaves. The first research on this was done with cats. They could learn and most kids can learn it too. Instead of drugging the hunter strengths out of these kids, biofeedback enables hunter children and adults to also function better in the classroom. Yet there has been almost no funding made available for this and other non-drug approaches to helping kids diagnosed with ADHD to function better in classrooms.
Letís talk about modern day hunters. Outside of the Arctic, where indigenous "Eskimos" still hunt for caribou, seal, whale and bear, (where 95% of students are identified as ADHD) in contemporary USA culture, hunters are alive and doing very well as entrepreneurs, reporters, detectives, programmers, surgeons, ER docs, repair and trades people (auto, computer, home, plumbers, electrician, construction, heating and air conditioning, landscaping) researchers.... itís a great list of people at all levels of education and income.
In many countries, there is no such diagnosis as ADHD -- no diagnosis, no problem. The main countries where it is identified as a problem are the U.S., Australia and Israel. One expert has suggested that these are countries that are composed primarily of immigrants, people who had enough ants in their pants to get up and leave their homeland and move to another country. Not surprisingly, these countries are known as leaders in research and innovation.
A hundred years from now, the use of stimulant medications like Ritalin and Concerta will be viewed with the same sentiments with which we now view the craziness of the Salem witch trials -- as an era of cultural insanity.
One major part of the problem is our school system. It was designed, as it now operates, to be a system to turn out obedient factory workers and foot soldiers. At a time when manufacturing jobs are becoming obsolete and even soldiering in the US requires creativity and innovation we need to take another look at how we handle the promise and strengths of kids who are labeled ADHD because they have hunter traits. We need to build an alternate system for educating them that makes the most of their strengths and that utilizes available technologies like neurofeedback brain training to enable them to take self responsibility for their success and to maximize their ability to contribute to our culture, instead of having the culture turn them into juvenile drug users.
We need to make conscious choices about our children rather than allowing policy to be driven by the "market," which is really controlled by pharmaceutical companies and doctors who get all their education from free, pharmaceutical company funded seminars. And be assured the role of pharmaceutical companies is very strong in this. The drugging of millions of American kids is in a large part due to the profit motive. Sometimes free capitalism doesnít watch where it steps.
What's the solution? Fund research into non-drug alternatives, prevent pharmaceutical companies from corrupting the health care system with training that only offers drug alternatives, develop alternative school and education models for "hunter" children (A few such schools already exist.) And talk about this problem. Too many parents and children have bought the ADHD as disease instead of as difference line. The word needs to get out that people who are ADD or ADHD are different, that they have their own strengths and gifts.
From a political point of view, the NRA ought to want to protect potential hunters, and liberals ought to want to protect potential cultural creatives. that makes this a potential bi-partisan issue.
Rob Kall is president of Futurehealth Inc. Heís an entrepreneur who is also diagnosable as A.D.D. He is publisher of Op Ed News.com, a progressive news and opinion website: www.opednews.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is copyright by Rob Kall, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this entire credit paragraph is attached.