Is This Where All The Ritalin Went?

Ritalin-SR-20mg-fullAccording to an op-ed entitled “Why Are We Drugging Our Soldiers?” in the New York Times by Richard A. Friedman, “the number of Ritalin and Adderall prescriptions written for active-duty service members increased by nearly 1,000 percent in five years.” Might this explain, in part at least, the shortages of Ritalin and Adderall that have plagued students nationwide?

Since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been a large and steady rise in the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among our troops. One recent study of 289,000 Americans who served in those countries found that the rates of the disorder jumped to 22 percent in 2008 from just 0.2 percent in 2002.

Given the duration of these wars and the length and frequency of deployments, when compared with other wars, perhaps such high rates of PTSD are not so surprising. Prolonged exposure to a perilous and uncertain combat environment might make trauma common.
Adderall 10mg
But there is another factor that might be playing a role in the increasing rates of the disorder, one that has escaped attention: the military’s use of stimulant medications, like Ritalin and Adderall, in our troops.

There has been a significant increase in the use of stimulant medication. Documents that I obtained in late 2010 through the Freedom of Information Act, and have recently analyzed, show that annual spending on stimulants jumped to $39 million in 2010 from $7.5 million in 2001 — more than a fivefold increase. Additional data provided by Tricare Management Activity, the arm of the Department of Defense that manages health care services for the military, reveals that the number of Ritalin and Adderall prescriptions written for active-duty service members increased by nearly 1,000 percent in five years, to 32,000 from 3,000.

Stimulants are widely used in the civilian population to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder because they increase focus and attention. Short of an unlikely epidemic of that disorder among our soldiers, the military almost certainly uses the stimulants to help fatigued and sleep-deprived troops stay alert and awake. (A spokesman for Tricare attributed the sharp rise to “the increased recognition and diagnosis of A.D.H.D. by medical providers.” However, while there is greater recognition of the disorder, the diagnoses are concentrated in children and adolescents.)…

[continues in the New York Times]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

Latest posts by majestic (see all)

9 Comments on "Is This Where All The Ritalin Went?"

  1. FusionSaint | Apr 22, 2012 at 10:02 am |

    Not the first time this has happened, it was a widespread during World War 2 – Vietnam in the United States. Benzedrine and other amphetamines were constantly issued by the army to keep soldiers alert. British studies following the war found that it was actually more harmful then helpful (except in the case of pilots that did not have pressurized cabins, in which case it worked quite well as it helped with the congestion) and that it was highly addicting.  

  2. Mamagriff50 | Apr 22, 2012 at 10:33 am |

    Could this possibly be the cause of the “HIGH” suicide rate among returning soldiers?!

    • “Could this possibly be the cause of the “HIGH” suicide rate among returning soldiers?!”

      The whole killing other human beings thing may be a factor, too.

  3. DeepCough | Apr 22, 2012 at 1:02 pm |

    This is just like the Civil War from the 19th century: because of the use of morphine to make amputation easier (whereas previously, they just held you down and peeled off your limb layer by layer),
    soldiers that were given morphine hypodermically–due to the belief that if the morphine bypassed the stomach, it would prevent habituation thereof–Civil War soldiers would end up with a lifetime of opiate dependency known as “Soldier’s disease.” Now, in the 21st century, looks like stimulants have given us a whole new brand of “Soldier’s disease.”

  4. Ugh. There is no depth we won’t sink to when it comes to keeping short term goals intact. I’ve got to wonder how many friends in service have had their bodies used as dumping grounds for toxic drugs with permanent brain damage as the result. Time to ask a few peeps some questions.

  5. You do realize that Tricare covers family members and retirees? My teen son (USAF retiree dependent)  is actually on Focalin but Adderall and Ritalin are in the Tricare formulary.

  6. Really,
    a government that routinely lies and uses deceptive practices
    in order to further the agenda of the Military-Industrial-Bankster Complex 
    would actually drug its troops into submission.
    I woulda never thunk it.

  7. Gina Pera | Apr 29, 2012 at 7:57 pm |

    Thank you for asking the only rational question I’ve seen asked in response to this irresponsible and unsupported piece.  Because the New York Times allows no comments on its “opinion” pieces, I wrote a response that I’d like to share with your readers.


    This is an opinion piece, not a factual piece. And it ran in “Week in Review,” a
    section whose editors seem to “self-medicate” with provocatively wrong-headed
    stories about ADHD.  I’ve learned it’s
    best to ignore such baseless, inflammatory opinions instead of re-posting or sharing
    them.  Then maybe the New York Times,
    like the bully who goes away when you stop taking the bait, will cease this
    toxic traffic-boosting strategy.

    This opinion writer, Richard A. Friedman, is a  “mood disorders” researcher. I’ve
    never heard of him, and I doubt you have, either. But if you know anything
    about some not-so-well-known researchers, you know that they cannot abide
    another specialty cutting into their action, especially when it comes to grants,
    papers, or, what shall I call it, ego fulfillment?  Never mind if they know nothing about the
    other specialty on which they are opining, as evidenced abundantly in
    Friedman’s sensationalistic meanderings. And never mind if their false
    conclusions create problems for innocent people.


    Among his many failures of fact and reason, Friedman fails
    to realize that many people with undiagnosed ADHD are drawn to the military for
    various reasons I won’t go into here. Schools around military bases have
    higher-than-average rates of children with ADHD.  Not surprising, given that ADHD is 76%
    heritable. But no, he doesn’t realize this, so he must assume that higher
    prescription rates mean the medication is being used for nefarious purposes.


    Friedman has NO facts to support this. That doesn’t stop him
    from wildly leaping on the idea that stimulants are being used to promote
    alertness in troops who do not have ADHD. 
    While there’s nothing new about that phenomenon, he offers not a shred
    of evidence that legitimate treatment rates alone don’t account for the recent
    increase in prescription rates. He dismisses the idea out of hand. Why, you
    would think he’s never read the literature. Hmmmm.


    The truth is, ADHD is finally being recognized more widely
    in all military branches, though enlightened attitudes around treatment still
    vary base to base, depending largely on the base commander’s awareness. 


    For most members of the military, though, getting legitimate
    treatment for ADHD still presents huge obstacles, and many suffer because of
    it. Some are forced leave the service, cutting short promising careers, because
    they cannot both stay in the military and get much-needed medical treatment for
    their ADHD. Individuals and their families suffer. By re-printing Friedman’s
    nonsense or sharing the link to his unsubstantiated opinion, you are heaping
    more suffering on them. Moreover, you are encouraging the New York Times to
    print more of this traffic-spiking tripe.


    Without regard for repercussions – or possibly to meet the
    Week in Review editors’ apparently insatiable desire for targeting ADHD in its anti-psychiatry-obsessed
    crosshairs – Friedman has gotten attention for himself.  And so-called progressives can get their
    anti-science knickers in a twist about “drugging” soldiers even as they
    ridicule creationists for their non-science savvy. What hypocrisy. Enough with
    your “evil Big Pharma.”  Grow the hell

    The military already battles with higher-than-average rates
    of domestic violence and financial bankruptcy – both linked to untreated ADHD.
    More ignorance will only further entrench these problems.


    As both a journalist and an ADHD advocate, I am sickened by this
    careless opinion writer and the NYT’s insistence on posting more like it.  But hey, it’s not like the paper had the
    facts when leading us into the Iran War, did it?  I no longer believe anything I read in this
    paper.  And if you want the facts about
    ADHD, you shouldn’t, either.


    Gina Pera, author

    Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.?

Comments are closed.