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The pharmaceutical state

Here, a story on how refusing to medicate your child can be deemed child abuse.

So Taylor took Daniel off Ritalin, against his doctor’s wishes. And though Taylor noticed Daniel was sleeping better and his appetite had returned, his teachers complained about the return of his disruptive behavior. Daniel seemed unable to sit still and was inattentive. His teachers ultimately learned that he was no longer taking Ritalin.

School officials reported Daniel’s parents to New Mexico’s Department of Children, Youth and Families.Then a detective and social worker made a home visit.

“The detective told me if I did not medicate my son, I would be arrested for child abuse and neglect,” Taylor said.

One hardly knows where to begin. The bogus “medicalization” of behavior? The all-too-common abdication of parental and teacher responsibility in favor of the easy fix of medication? The heavy hand of the state telling a man he has to drug his child for the convenience of public employees, even though the drugs are causing sleep and appetite problems.

21 comments to The pharmaceutical state

  • Euan Gray

    What, though, does one do about the nutcases like Jehovah’s Witnesses who have to be compelled by court order to permit life-saving blood transfusions for their children? Where do you draw the line?


  • Elaine

    Did it never occur to the boy’s teacher that maybe the poor kid was just bored stiff? A good teacher is better than drugs.

  • Mashiki


    Ofcourse not. I remember school being so boring 90% of the time I dozed off in the middle of it, I also learned the useful skill of sleeping with my eyes open. Ah the beauties of our education system…what a load of tripe. Forget useful instruction, try forceful indoctrination…I’m perhaps 12 or so years out of the schooling system atleast at the HS level here in Canada.

    It was boring as all hell then. But I remember each level becoming less ‘learning’ and more driving home what we know as right. Don’t argue the point either, or your going to get in trouble too! Ugh…I remember the hours of detention I spent after refuting something which I proved to be true. Or challenging a point for the sake of understanding it better. The US is not any different, I have friends who have their kids in school here and states side. Same all around, the system seems to be driving kids to be put ‘in their place’ rather then showing them a path that they can take.

    Bah. Bloody useless I’m going to follow in the steps of my friends and homeschool my children, unless I find a ‘good’ private school.

  • What, though, does one do about the nutcases like Jehovah’s Witnesses who have to be compelled by court order to permit life-saving blood transfusions for their children?

    One explains what is at stake to the child and leaves the ultimate decision to them. What does one do in the case of an infant? I really don’t know. It is an imperfect world we live in and good answers are hard to come by.

  • Gazaridis

    Where the actual life of the child is in danger, then there’s a case to be made for ignoring the wishes of the parent. But when the medication isn’t needed to save the child’s life, and is actually causing the child harm, shouldn’t the police be sued for encouraging child abuse?

  • The problem with kids is that they are not responsible. It is difficult to let parents have 100% autonomy to raise their children as they please because there is definitely the potential for abuse. Kids have rights, as all humans do.

    The knee-jerk regulation reaction misses the obvious better solution: community. Shame is a good forcing function. Having a group of people who are concerned with their neighborhood acting before a crisis occurs is another.

    This is one thing that most statists rarely discuss: the long-term effect of governmental action on traditional social roles, namely making them irrelevant.

    The best part about distributed dicision making in the community is that one can “vote with your feet” by moving. If you don’t think you can or should have to move, you can simply ignore the rules. Of course, this sorta gets back to the original question about what governmental action is appropriate when traditional means of raising children (parents, the community) fail.

    I don’t think that “explaining what is at stake” would work well in most cases in practice. First, who decided who will explain? Second, how do you take into account illogical but important emotions? Also, aren’t cases this desperate most likely the same cases in which there is a drastic failure to communicate by all parties?

    Hard problem. What is amazing is that we have come far enough along in this downward spiral to see cases like this one which are quite grotesque.

    Generally, I would say that avoiding governmental over-involvement in the way I raise my children (future) is more important than “protecting” 100% of the children 100% of the time.

    On a side note, this discussion relates to those that futurists have, projecting the miracles of medical science decades ahead. Maybe not allowing a child to learn from a brain-internet implant is abuse. I doubt kiddy stimulants are in the same ballpark

  • Where do you draw the line?

    Assuming we must draw a line — I’m unconvinced — I would hope we could agree that diseases/disorders lacking in objective diagnostic criteria and treatments with a host of known potential negative side-effects (link requires registration), several of which were reported by the father (anorexia, weight loss, and insomnia are all known potential side-effects of Ritalin (Methylphenidate hydrochloride)) are not a reasonable basis for state intervention in loco parentis and threat of force against the father.

    This case is just so far out there it’s unbelievable.


  • What, though, does one do about the nutcases like Jehovah’s Witnesses who have to be compelled by court order to permit life-saving blood transfusions for their children? Where do you draw the line?

    This one’s pretty easy: The line is drawn at life. If the child will not survive without the treatment, then the parents should be forced to allow the treatment. Otherwise, never. Force-feeding mind-altering drugs into a child is not an acceptable function of the state.

  • Harry

    Actually, I think there are difficult cases, though I abundantly agree that this isn’t one of them. Consider a schizophrenic child whose only (tenuous) hope of normal life is to submit to regular doses of psychoactive drugs. Would a parental decision to withhold these be morally equivalent to withholding ritalin? I don’t think so.

    N.b. If the teacher in question were worth a shit, he/she would have been able to deal with the hyperactive urchin without all this fuss.

  • Guy Herbert

    Generally speaking, I’m with Perry. However, explaining to the child may well not be an option because the child will in most cases be under the physical or psychological control of the nutcase parents, even if the life-threatening condition leaves you with a conscious child and plenty of time to explain.

    How long do you have? Children brought up in all sorts of barking traditions eventually change their own minds, but if this happens it is mostly a product of adolescence or early adulthood. Otherwise they conform to the expectations of those around them. Imagine going here and discussing palaeontology with the exiting kids.

  • People don’t fully appreciate just how dangerous “child protection” statutes are. The general run of these things are badly written and signed into law on a wave of emotionalism, if not outright hysteria. The result is legislation that can be, and often is, applied at the whim of those whom the state has assigned to look after the doe-eyed little moppets. As but one particularly odious example, here in the U.S., we still have people in prison who were railroaded on a wave of hysteria about “ritual Satanic abuse” in day care centers in the mid-80s. Appealing to the natural desire to protect children turns out to be an excellent way for the state to grab yet more power.

  • toolkien

    Once again all this argument reduces to zero if the child is regarded as property of the parent who brought it into the world. Otherwise we simply argue where the line of demarkation belongs. Life? Obviously a large portion of the mass think that life simply isn’t worth living unless you receive a State education. If you can’t sit still and consume it properly, the cause and effect is lost. So force a pill on the child and the parents. The induction goes on and on until every child is effectively property of the State until and the parent merely an agent, and a mighty passive one at that.

    I’ve been chastised for my black and white stance in saying the child is property. Something is either a member of the State, with full rights and obligations, or something is a resource or property which has value to the contracting member. The child is deemed a ‘ward’ as if this means something. That simply states the child is entitled to have me sacrifice on its behalf at point X when there has been no interest on my part up to point X. What good is it to sacrifice, via the State, to preserve a child, then quibble about State interference in the conditioning of said child? Either the State is interested or it is not.

    Too dystopian? If so, much less than a world of social bureaucrats dictating to us the manner and function of raising our own children. It is only natural that once the State has interested itself in the welfare of the child that will only expand. Statism has grown apace despite the desires of the average frequenter here. Perhaps once pandora’s box is opened, and the State is allowed to peek in the windows it’s not long before they kick in the door. Cut it off at the root.

  • Without reading the article, I’m going to guess that this happened in Santa Fe or Taos. I lived for a while in the People’s Republic of New Mexico, and you wouldn’t believe the level of uber-control there. Social Services IS the government in NM.

    Beautiful state, lotta ugly bureaucrats.

  • R C Dean

    Once again all this argument reduces to zero if the child is regarded as property of the parent who brought it into the world.

    Won’t go there. Sorry. Matter of principle. People can’t be property.

    Even attempting to create a hybrid category where kids are a form of highly restricted property (can’t be sold or disposed of, etc.) merely debases both property and people.

  • Jacob

    All means of disciplining a child have been strictly forbidden by … by whom ? the “caring” classes ?
    A teacher (or even a parent) is not allowed to smack a child, or expell him from class, or shame him.
    He is only allowed (nay: mandated) to declare him insane (disordered) and drug him !!! That’s the only means of disciplining available.
    I repeat: smacking is strictly forbidden as it may harm the child’s delicate soul forever. Drugging him, on the other hand – no harm here, this will do him only good, that’s the verdict of Science !
    (of course, it must be the good drug Ritalin, as all other cousin drugs, like grass, are notoriously harmfull).

    Smoking by adults – very bad for your health. Drugging children – magic solution to all problems.

    When I was young some years back, I NEVER met a depressed or disordered child. Now maybe 20% are depressed, disordered or declared insane in some other way, and must be all drugged with the cure-all wonder drug Ritalin.
    The mere fact of declaring a child disordered administers a fatal blow to his psyche forever, even before Ritalin administers a phisical blow on top of it.

    Just as well that Science has made a big leap forward and quackery has been outlawed.

    And it’s all, as usual, for the good of the CHILDREN !
    Those who have doubts are child haters.

  • Pete (Detroit)

    If the teacher in question were worth a shit, he/she would have been able to deal with the hyperactive urchin without all this fuss.

    Sorry, I have too many relatives and aquaintences in the system – public, private, Mich, Minn to agree w/ that. Teachers anymore are pretty sevrely hamstung when it comes to disciplining the kiddos. And the REALLY GOOD teachers tend to be the ones who get frustrated and quit, burned out by the administrative BS and turd herding “parents.”
    A more accurate statement might be that if the parenting was remotely effective, the urchin would be less “hyperactive” and not disrupting the class.
    Yes, it’s a VERY complex issue, and the parents and schools need to work together to match styles of teaching w/ styles of learning. Unfortunately, that takes time and effort, and teachers have little, parents are typically willing to give even less.
    And yes, there are kids w/ legit hardware issues that need to be medicated. But the scene described above is just sick.
    Side note – just who do you think is PAYing for all the frigg’n’ pills, ANYway?

  • This nonsense further proves the medicalization of society deplored by Thomas Szasz. Doctors’ diagnoses have gone right over the border between medical treatment and social control without even sensing where it is. Courts and schools are only too glad to abdicate common sense when a doctor – psychiatric or just medical – shows up and then to enforce whatever the doctor says. Such criminal oppression saves them the time and effort of coming up with a solution of their own. Next revolution, first thing we do, let’s kill all the doctors!

  • speedwell

    One Sunday morning I was in a meeting with a group of people famously dedicated to ideals of nonviolence, tolerance, and individualism; people whose historical views on rights, community, and compassion were an integral part of the founding of the USA.

    A woman stood and spoke in the discussion after the meeting. She deplored the undisciplined, violent nature of modern society. She decided that the best way to address the issue was for the government to medicate criminals, whether in prison or out. She felt that since crime was (to her) a mental illness, psychiatric medication was the appropriate remedy.

    I couldn’t believe my ears. When I asked her how she intended to enforce the medication of criminals, she said that they would have to be monitored, and, if found to be skipping their daily dose, institutionalized and given the drugs as patients.

    When I protested that doing so was impermissible use of force and deadly violence to the essential nature of a person (if you know the group I’m talking about you know what I mean by “essential nature”), she and others looked at me like I’d grown an extra head.

  • The parents would be justified in lying in such a situation. They could accept the Ritalin, destroy them and give their kid sugar pills instead. The kid wouldn’t know the difference and would therefore be less likely to get into trouble. It would be a test of the placebo effect. And if it didn’t change his behavior, they could loudly blame the doctor!

  • Dave F

    Robert Speirs: doctors not only know what social control is, large numbers of them believe they are the best qualified to administer it. A doctor I was talking to about violence told me: “We just have to find the right tranquilliser.” My angry response was met with a supercilious shrug.

  • Jacob

    “Next revolution, first thing we do, let’s kill all the doctors…”

    Yes. We usually hate the state, which has been officially declared “not your friend”.

    But here the culprit isn’t only the state who intrudes into the life of individuals, but also “the doctors” (some of them, not all …) which are recommending the use of state power to enforce dangerous and dubious overuse of drugs.