David Treadwell's Dec. 28 front page article "A Miracle Drug Gets a Closer Look" is misleading and unbalanced. The article presents unverified stories from parents and attorneys who are suing for damages for alleged ill effects of Ritalin.
This article suggests that Ritalin is a "chemical straitjacket" and is being used for children who are merely unruly. The childhood "Hyperactive Syndrome" is a major and serious condition that leads to poor adjustment and unhappiness in childhood and, frequently to delinquency in adolescence and criminal behavior in adulthood.
Ritalin, when properly prescribed, in fact, does not restrict behavior but instead puts the child in better control of his own behavior and makes him freer to choose from a wide range of behaviors including being able to pay attention and to behave in a more socially appropriate manner, if he chooses. Being unable to sit still, unable to attend well enough to learn academic subjects and social skills, and unable to make friends is not freedom.
I am amazed at how The Times distorted the findings from my long-term study of hyperactive children and implied that this study showed that Ritalin treatment was ineffective and contributed to the development of delinquency. While it is true that Ritalin by itself has not been found to prevent delinquency, it most certainly has never been found to cause delinquency.
What my study did show was that Ritalin combined with other psychological treatments targeting each of the child's disabilities and delivered in an intense manner over a two- to three-year period was very effective in preventing serious teen-age delinquency in hyperactive children. This finding is important since childhood hyperactivity is such a high-risk factor for later delinquency.
JAMES H. SATTERFIELD, MD