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Blunt Instruments

April 9th, 2014 05:00:00 am

Blunt Instruments

           Art Markman, PhD weighed in on whether medications for ADD/HD really work. A professor, Markman mentions the scary trend of college students (not to mention high school students) utilizing ADD/HD drugs to enhance their academic performance. He asks, “Do these drugs make you smarter?”


            Spoiler alert: his article concludes that the medications prescribed for ADD/HD did not increase intelligence, but rather the ability to memorize things from a list. He also point out that “any pill is a blunt instrument,” and there is no indication that comprehension is improved. It's mere memorization. Though there are times when that is helpful, one must weigh the side effects—including the addictiveness of the drugs.


            Markman poked at the inference that ADD/HD medication helps with better executive functioning skills, yet in over half the studies that is not the case. They performed no better than a placebo.


            However, when medications were in place when the child needed to learn something based on memorization (or “rote learning skills,” not comprehension), they were able to perform well on the test without the drugs. That is, they used them to memorize what they needed, but didn't need the substance for the actual test itself, which was usually the next day. I have often said these medications make the mind function at a (s)lower level. Therefore, individuals are more likely to digest information that they normally find no value or worth in.


            What Markman does not address are the behavioral issues that are often the driving force behind the labeling and medicating of a child. The drugs do seem to create a calmer, or less disruptive child. Some would call them a semi-comatose child. There are many non-drug choices and shifts that can be made to help create a less disruptive child; choices that will not interfere with their naturally exuberant nature, or questioning and curious mind. I don't think anything will make a child like or want to engage in mindless memorization, or a lecture with information that seems meaningless. A drug can't fix that. Only a good educator can, someone who takes the time to help a child connect to or feel passionate about the subject at hand. Medications are only the best option if you want to create Stepford Children.


            Markman concludes with, “In the end, it is important to be armed with the facts when considering any kind of medication.” I could not agree more. I would only like to add that one should arm themselves with the facts, making sure they're explained and understood in a risk-adjusted manner.



See the original article by Art Markman, PhD at:




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