Blowing Away Algebra Two: A Price For Drugging Our Kids?

Regarding the recent wave of killings by students in high school:

Might the reason for these shootings, just possibly, be Ritalin, the amphetamine-like drug used to pacify millions of fidgety boys?

Yeah, I know. Wild idea. But I’m not the first it has occurred to, and something is sure going on.

We’ve all wondered, unless we’re dead or crazy, why kids in high school have taken to blowing away their classmates with guns. The premier example is the shootings at Columbine, but there have been many others. Why do boys, often from fairly ordinary families, decide to kill the kids in Algebra Two?

The media usually blame guns. (Ever look at the average SATs of students in journalism schools? You wouldn’t be surprised.) Whatever one’s views of guns, they aren’t responsible for the wave of shootings. Guns have been around for centuries, and these shootings didn’t occur. Something new is involved.

Another explanation is that divorce, and the advent of unrelenting anti-male propaganda in the schools, have left boys puzzled, alienated, and hostile. They therefore commit multiple murders. This doesn’t really make sense. Killing a dozen people isn’t a plausible response to being told that Sojourner Truth is more important than Isaac Newton. It’s psychotic behavior.

What, then?

Well, depending on whose figures you like, something like twelve percent of boys in grade school and high school take Ritalin for what is called Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD. This means that they fidget, throw spitballs, and disrupt class. Whether such a condition in fact exists in a medical sense may be questioned. When I was a kid, acting up was called “being a boy.” Dumb boys, who couldn’t keep up, and smart boys, who were bored, particularly did these things. Now these kids are doped with Ritalin to keep them passive.

This is new. Like the shootings.

Ritalin is speed. It’s a stimulant–specifically methylphenidate. It’s like crystal meth, dex, Ecstasy, and so on. Stimulants in large doses can produce psychotic behavior. They alter brain chemistry. Odd: We tell kids that drugs are bad, and then give them speed.

In the mid-Sixties, I was a very young, very dumb kid in Istanbul, then a point of congregation for young travelers going to India. Countless kids met in the hostels of Sultan Ahmet, and did drugs. A favorite was–yep–Ritalin. Kids took it in large amounts, and discovered The Crash: The foul, angry, despairing depression when the beast wore off. Ritalin. The stuff your kids are on.

There are sites and stories on the Web which allege that the Columbine killers and the rest were on Ritalin, and that the pharmaceutical companies have gone to great lengths to keep this little fact from coming to light. The reason is said to be that a lot of money in profits is involved. Further, sez me, the legal liability, if Ritalin were implicated, would be about seven times the manufacturer’s net worth. According to the stories, the medical records of the killers are routinely declared confidential.

True? I don’t know. In a lot of years in journalism I’ve heard companies accused of all sorts of things that didn’t happen–defense contractors who were said to be selling $600 toilet seats to the military, that kind of thing. Conspiracy theories are a dime a gross, and most of them are absurd.

But in this case the explanation fits, as nothing else does. The drug is of recent advent in the schools. So are the killings. The literature of pharmacology notes that heavy use of stimulants, including Ritalin, can produce violent behavior. For what it’s worth, kids in high school are well known (ask your sprats about it) to sell Ritalin to each other.

What proportion of the killers were on what drugs? How many if any boys respond psychotically to long-term use at moderate dosages? I’d like to know. I don’t know how you get around confidentiality of medical records. On the other hand, any parents who refused to answer the question might reasonably be assumed to have something to hide.

One thing is for sure: Something not yet understood is going on. Walking into a class room and killing–bang, brains all over the walls–is not what boys normally do when they get bad grades. If it were, half the male population would be in Leavenworth. We’ve all had problems as kids. Adolescents have been moody and depressed as long as there have been hormones.

And it isn’t television. You don’t watch Clint Eastwood splatter away some miscreant and then go kill half a dozen kids.

Maybe it’s not Ritalin or any other of the drugs we routinely feed to kids. But I want to know it isn’t.

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