We know Mr. Rather had a preconceived story-line because five months before the episode appeared he published an op-ed demanding that our nation "wake up to the syndrome of parenting with pills."
Many of us feel that way about ADHD. Certainly I did until I looked into the facts. Mr. Rather and his team had access to those same facts. Yet they clearly ignored them, instead packing the show with ersatz experts and untruths.
The show's prime (and repeatedly displayed) critic of treating ADHD with drugs is an osteopath – not a medical doctor and certainly not a psychiatrist, neurologist, or pediatrician. That critic, Mary Ann Block, told 48 Hours "ADHD is a made up, psychiatric label."
Wrong says the AMA, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, the Surgeon General, the American Psychiatric Association in its famed Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and Block's own American Osteopathic Association!
Each of these also endorses the use of drugs for the disorder.
CBS also fails to tell us that Block is the author of No More Ritalin and No More ADHD, both books making the wholly unsubstantiated claim that ADHD is the result of allergies and nutritional deficits. By marvelous coincidence she also sells her own line of three different nutritional supplements, including "CONCENTRATION For-Your-Kids."
CBS indicates that ADHD drugs are not only a "gateway" to abuse of ADHD medicine but also illegal narcotics. Ritalin, according to unnamed authorities, is "middle school cocaine."
Contrast that with a September 2001 GAO report entitled "Attention Disorder Drugs: Few Incidents of Diversion or Abuse Identified by Schools." The NIMH expressly labels the future junkie theory a "myth," noting that "stimulants help many children focus and be more successful at school, home, and play." Avoiding negative experiences now may help prevent addictions and other emotional problems later.
ADHD drug abuse, for which a nurse on the "48 Hours" show says she lost her job, "is not a major problem [and] case reports describing abuse by children prescribed stimulants for ADHD are rare," says the NIMH.
The website RatherBiased.com calls The Dan "America's most politicized journalist."
48 Hours doesn't completely endorse Dr. Block's view, but gives the idea that psychostimulant drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, Cylert and others are at best marginally useful. Actually, "Stimulant treatment has been used for childhood behavioral disorders since the 1930s," according to a 1999 Surgeon General's report. "Psychostimulants are highly effective for 75 to 90 percent of children with ADHD," it says.
In any case, says CBS, it's obvious that ADHD treatments are vastly overprescribed; any child who so much as fidgets gets drugged. Wrong, says the NIMH. "Recent reports (1998 and 1999) found little evidence of overdiagnosis of ADHD or overprescription of stimulant medications," it says.
Adds the NIMH report: "Most researchers believe that much of the increased use of stimulants reflects better diagnosis and more effective treatment of a prevalent disorder." It does say that despite very strict rules about who is a candidate for drugs, there may be cases of "inappropriate diagnosis and treatment." Sometimes grabbing a prescription pad is too easy.
"Wrong diagnoses are always a problem in medicine," Washington, D.C. psychiatrist Alen Salerian told me. "There's a danger of an incorrect ADHD diagnosis even with the best of intentions."
But neither he nor the NIMH blames the drugs nor their makers. "Family practitioners are more likely than either pediatricians or psychiatrists to prescribe stimulants and less likely to use diagnostic services, provide mental health counseling, or provide followup care," says the Institute.
None of the above information was in The Dan's show. Time restraints, you know.
Yet there was time for untruths, such as that about Dawn Marie Branson. She crashed into an on-coming vehicle, killing her child. She blames Adderall-induced psychosis. CBS reported her "three-year-old son was in the back seat," and depicted him wearing a child-restraint seat.
ADHD is a real problem, affecting up to five percent of all children.
Much of the show was about two screaming, kicking boys who seemed to get worse under ADHD drugs. Perhaps there's a reason. Dr. Salerian said of the children, "It's possible they have some form of ADHD but that doesn't appear to be their prime problem."
Yet ADHD is a very real problem, affecting up to five percent of all children, according to the NIMH. And if it's a problem that it may be overprescribed, shouldn't it be considered so if prejudice prevents children from receiving drugs that could be tremendously beneficial?
But don't expect such intelligent questions or answers on shows by Mr. Bias himself. And after all, our biggest drug problem is probably television.