Unsettling science

Not satisfied with overmedicating children for ADHD, some scientists are now saying we should medicate children who daydream. Which means that had I been born in this modern generation, I would have been ripe for being diagnosed with this brand-new “disorder”. I remember doing a lot of daydreaming in school. And yet, I managed to graduate high school and college without being dosed for it.

Yet now some powerful figures in mental health are claiming to have identified a new disorder that could vastly expand the ranks of young people treated for attention problems. Called sluggish cognitive tempo, the condition is said to be characterized by lethargy, daydreaming and slow mental processing. By some researchers’ estimates, it is present in perhaps two million children.

There are several alarm bells going off as I read this article. Here’s the first:

Experts pushing for more research into sluggish cognitive tempo say it is gaining momentum toward recognition as a legitimate disorder — and, as such, a candidate for pharmacological treatment. Some of the condition’s researchers have helped Eli Lilly investigate how its flagship A.D.H.D. drug might treat it.

Isn’t that interesting. The “experts” researching this condition are being paid by Eli Lilly to figure out how they can treat it with already-existing drugs–thus adding to Lilly’s bottom line.

Here’s the second:

Yet some experts, including Dr. McBurnett and some members of the journal’s editorial board, say that there is no consensus on the new disorder’s specific symptoms, let alone scientific validity. They warn that the concept’s promotion without vastly more scientific rigor could expose children to unwarranted diagnoses and prescription medications — problems that A.D.H.D. already faces.

“We’re seeing a fad in evolution: Just as A.D.H.D. has been the diagnosis du jour for 15 years or so, this is the beginning of another,” said Dr. Allen Frances, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Duke University. “This is a public health experiment on millions of kids.”

In other words, there have been no scientific studies on the so-called disorder.

And here is the last alarm, which proves to me that this “disorder” is a load of crap:

Dr. Barkley declined repeated requests for interviews about his work and statements regarding sluggish cognitive tempo. Several of the field’s other key researchers, Stephen P. Becker of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Benjamin B. Lahey of the University of Chicago and Stephen A. Marshall of Ohio University, also declined to comment on their work.

If it’s a true disorder, why are they not speaking to the press? Could it be because there is no science behind it, only the desire to increase their research grants from Eli Lilly?

Dr. McBurnett recently conducted a clinical trial funded and overseen by Eli Lilly that investigated whether proposed symptoms of sluggish cognitive tempo could be treated with Strattera, the company’s primary A.D.H.D. drug. (One of Strattera’s selling points is that it is not a stimulant like Adderall and Concerta, medications more susceptible to abuse.) His study, published in The Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, concluded, “This is the first study to report significant effects of any medication on S.C.T.”

An Eli Lilly spokeswoman said in an email, “Sluggish cognitive tempo is one of many conditions that Lilly scientists continue to study to help satisfy unmet medical needs around the world.”


You know what makes up a significant portion of my writing time? Plotting. You know what another word for plotting could be?


If the New York Times is treating this trend with such outright skepticism, I don’t believe it will take root. But in this era of Nanny State Uber Alles, I wouldn’t want to lay odds.

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One Response to Unsettling science

  1. April says:

    “Called sluggish cognitive tempo, the condition is said to be characterized by lethargy, daydreaming and slow mental processing.” AKA BOREDOM! You combat that by engaging children and installing a love of learning. No meds are needed. There are enough people with real medical issues that need medical research, don’t waste time and resources on this.
    I do have question for the Eli Lilly folks, where will your innovative meds come from if you dose all the daydreamers?

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