NIR is not particularly prone to media paranoia, the notion that there are hidden, manipulative agendas behind stories and opinion pieces. But we are starting to wonder about the NYT Sunday Review. For the second time in three weeks, they have prominently presented an opinion piece that at its essence, portrays ADHD and its treatment as a self-serving hoax. Today’s article by Hanif Kureishi, whose clinical credentials consist of being a playwright and screenwriter, extolls the creative and experiential richness made accessible by what he describes as the “Art of Distraction.” For Mr. Kureishi, the use of ADHD medications is an act of creative suppression: “Ritalin and other forms of enforcement and psychological policing are the contemporary equivalent of the old practice of tying up children’s hands in bed, so they won’t touch their genitals. The parent stupefies the child for the parent’s good. There is more to this than keeping out the interesting: there is the fantasy and terror that someone here will become pleasure’s victim, disappearing into a spiral of enjoyment from which he or she will not return.”
What idiocy. Parents and prescribers do not utilize stimulant medications because they are afraid that these children will otherwise indulge themselves in the Pleasuredome of unlimited possibilities. There may be a small subset of bright individuals for whom ADHD has served as a vehicle for out-of-the box thinking and accomplishment, but Richard Branson is the exception, not the rule. For most children and adolescents with medication-worthy ADHD, ADHD has not been an exhilarating ride into uncharted creativity, it has been the experience of spinning one’s wheels and only becoming further bogged down.
So, we have to ask: What is going on at the NYTSR? Two stories in three weeks have painted ADHD as a illusory construct built of inadequate and/or overcontrolling parenting, ADHD medications a ruse. Bereft of any counterpoint, these underinformed, indeed ignorant pieces remind us not of the luminaries who have graced the pages of the NYT over the decades, but of Tom Cruise, discussing the merits of antidepressants.