Sunday Song Lyric:
There are scads of songs about drugs, and even more that were influenced by the drug habits of their writers, composers, and performers. Some celebrate drug-induced highs, while others lament the horrors of dependence and addiction. Marijuana and heroin seem to be particular favorites for songwriters and musicians — the latter of which is responsible for its fair share of musical casualties. No wonder they are referenced in so many songs.

There are not so many songs about ritalin, however. Perhaps this is because so few musicians have direct experience with it. (Or perhaps because they have retired by the time they consider ritalin for their kids.) Given the controversy over whether ritalin is over-prescribed, it's certainly a worthy song subject.

I don't know what inspired Chevelle to write "Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)," but it is clearly an anti-ritalin tune. I like the song, but do not know enough about ritalin to endorse the message. (For those interested Michael Fumento makes a powerful defense of ritalin here; and see responses here). It also does not hurt that Chevelle puts on a forceful live show, and this song was a highlight of their set when I saw them last summer.

The video for "Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)" is available on Chevelle's website (registration required). The lyrics are below:

Some will learn, many do
Cover up or spread it out
Turn around had enough
Pick and choose or pass it on
Buying in heading for
Suffer now or suffer then
It's bad enough, I want the fear
Need the fear cause he's alone
And he has become

Well if they're making it, making it
Then they're pushing it, pushing it
And they're leading us along
The hassle of, hassle of
All the screaming fits, screaming fits
That panic makes remorse

After all, what's the point
Course levitation is possible
If you're a fly, achieved and gone
There's time for this and so much more
It's typical create a world
A special place of my design
To never cope or never care
Just use the key cause he's alone

Over and over a slave became
Over and over a slave became
Over and over a slave became
Over and over it's slave

Well if they're making it
Then they're pushing it
And they're leading us a long
The hassle of
All the screaming fits
That panic held before
Will if they making it
And they're pushing it
And they're leading us along
Like a cancer caused
All the screaming fits
And their panic makes remorse
Bruce Wilder (www):
I've used ritalin, as prescribed, as an adult. It immediately relieved the problem, for which it was prescribed. After ramping up the dose slightly, in experiements supervised by my doctor, I took it for several months. Eventually, I felt comfortable diminishing the dose, and after about eight months, I stopped taking it. The problem, for it was prescribed, did not return.

Subjectively, I would say that the effects were very similar to caffeine, but weighted more toward enhancing the ability to focus attention. Unlike caffeine, the effects did not diminish appreciably after a few days of use. The only significant side effect I experienced was an interaction, when I took a B vitamin, and my heart raced for an hour or so; evidently, the vitamin B-6 (?) enhances the conductivity of nerves in a way that can be compounded by the action of ritalin, which may be similar in its effects. (The method of action for ritalin is not, afaik, known definitively; methylphenidate (chemical name for ritalin) is NOT, as sometimes asserted a synthetic adrenaline, like methamphetamine).

I did not take ritalin as a child, nor did I have any childhood symptoms of ADHD or related syndromes. Nor am I in the medical field, where I would either read much of anything about ritalin use or observe people using it. Mine is solely a personal experience.

The constrast, however, between my personal experience and what anti-ritalin advocates say, tends to confirm in my own mind the hypothesis that they are hysterical and destructive nutcases.

As drugs go, ritalin, in small, controlled doses, is very, very safe. Of course, it is going to be over-prescribed, because the risks of prescribing it are low compared to the risks of not prescribing it.

Ritalin is definitely not a sedative. The idea that giving ritalin to a kid is going to turn him into a zombie seems, to me, based on my personal experience of taking the drug, akin to madness. The effect is stimulative. My understanding of ADHD is that it is thought to be a condition in which hyperactivity is a byproduct of the organism seeking stimulation, but not being able to experience that stimulation, perhaps because nervous system development has stalled or been blocked. The kid tries some activity for a few minutes, but can't get interested, then switches to another activity and can't get interested, and switches again, and again. (One symptom of the condition for which I took ritalin was that I would sit in front of the tv, and compulsively switch channels, never actually watching a program.)

If a kid has this kind of problem, is given ritalin, and suddenly can focus productively, I would be inclined to take that as evidence confirming the diagnosis. Ritalin is not a sedative; I doubt that it is going to settle a high-spirited kid into a zombie. I never worked out so hard at the gym or at such a pace as I did when I was taking ritalin; it is not a drug that inclines you to want to lie down and take a nap.

Again, I'm not an expert, and my experience was not that of a child. Children, with developing nervous systems may well react differently to a drug such as this. But, I do have a personal experience, and that personal experience is completely at odds to what I see the critics say. For what it is worth.
6.11.2006 1:31pm
the boggart (mail) (www):
I sympathise with the views put forward in the song and with parents of hyperactive kids. All drugs are over-prescribed. I have a condition which, uncontrolled, would turn my blood to ketchup. Without medication I would die. Despite the fact that standard hypertension drugs failed to control my condition allowing me to almost die while being told by doctors I was not taking my drugs as prescribed (in effect they were calling me a liar) I still have to take the drugs that didn't work (because you have had high blood pressure and so will need these for the rest of your life) as well as the one drug that does work.
As for hyperactivity, I believe a diet free of artificial additives is very effective in a lot of cases.Parents, get cooking.
6.11.2006 1:37pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I still don't understand the wisdom of giving kids with poor attention spans amphetamines, and I'm a doctor and a former kid with a short attention span.
6.11.2006 1:54pm
John Armstrong (mail):
I tend to occupy an odd position. I was prescribed methylphenidate when I was very young, and before it really became overpopular. As such, and from current observations, I'm certain that the diagnosis was correct. I can also see the great benefits methylphenidate had on me. I still don't like the Ritalin culture.

Why? Because there's nothing of substance to the treatment. Dope 'em up and get 'em out. Tell the kid he's got a condition and he just needs to pay (and pay and pay and pay) for this chemical for the rest of his life. Bruce, above, noted that he got off of it after a while, and it sounds like this was the plan from the beginning. In my experience (and of many others) the plan is to stick a kid on the medication and walk away, periodically ramping it up as he grows.

Methylphenidate does its job very well, for whatever reason. It doesn't render the child a mindless drone (oh how my parents must have wished it did). It doesn't induce a psychotic break. The problem with this and many other psychoactive medications is in usage. It's analogous to giving a crutch to a man with a broken leg and telling him to use it the rest of his life, rather than using it to help him get by until he can walk on his own again.
6.11.2006 2:13pm
"I never worked out so hard at the gym or at such a pace as I did when I was taking ritalin; it is not a drug that inclines you to want to lie down and take a nap."

I've heard it's kind of a mental cocaine for the academic test-taking set. It's prescribed though, so not considered illegal.
6.11.2006 2:16pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I suppose one reason there are few songs about ritalin is that it's much easier to find a rhyme for beer, weed, pot, etc..

So they dosed me up on ritalin
And left me ... uh .... er... revitualing? fiddlin'?
6.11.2006 3:08pm
Ritalin, Aderol are like sterioids for law students. Its pretty pathetic for the kids taking the drugs and for society for not looking into this problem.
6.11.2006 3:08pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Without disputing the fact that ritalin doesn't make it into nearly as many rock songs as other drugs, I know of one. "This is a Call" by the Foo Fighters contains the following somewhat engimatic but certainly not trite stanza:

minicyn is pretty
minicyn is good
seems that all the cysts and mollusks tend to barter

ritalin is easy
ritalin is good
even all the ones
who watered down the daughter
6.11.2006 3:29pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I have some reservations about ritalin being prescribed for very young children. However, I don't see the slightest problem with adults using this medication if it helps them study or concentrate. As long as they are informed of the risks then I see little more problem with it than I do with caffeine (more powerful and slightly more dangerous but same issues).

The problem with the ritalin controversy is that everyone seems to have this attitude that it must be a disease or disorder in order to justify treatment with a drug. I suspect there is a continuim of people with different levels of attention and concentration abilities. People with ADHD are just at an extreme end of that continuim. This surely doesn't mean they don't experience real problems and get real benefits from ADHD drugs and it would be absurd to demand they go back to suffering because you can't keep your world orderly by drawing a sharp line between those that have ADHD and those that don't.

The question we should be asking is not whether people who don't have ADHD are getting prescribed ritalin or adderall but could we change things to make people more happy. If some law students take adderall/ritalin to stay up and do their law then so long as it isn't imposing serious social costs and they know the risks we should use give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are doing what makes them happy.
6.11.2006 3:34pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Ritalin is mentioned in the lyrics to "the Ritalin Song" in the "Brothers little helper " episode of the Simpsons.
(Sung to the tune of "Popeye the Sailor Man")
"When I can't stop me fiddlin, I just takes me Ritalin,I'm poppin and sailin man!" Fittingly enough Mark McGwire guest stars.
6.11.2006 3:44pm
Wallace (mail):
I used to work in a residential mental health center for emotionally disturbed adolescents (what would have been called "juvenile delinquents" at one time). We ran a soley behavioral program with no medication. About 9 out of the 10 kids had been diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medication before coming to us. While working with the kids, I would say that only 2-3 out of 10 would continue to exhibit ADHD behavior.

I don't know if their medication helped after the program, but I did come to believe that most of the kids I worked with were misdiagnosed or had short attention spans because they lived in chaotic environments.
6.11.2006 5:29pm
lincoln (mail):
Re' Great Drug Songs:
Of course the sine qua non is from Huey Lewis and the News,but "Mother's Little 'Elper was (supposedly a tribute to Valium) a strong second.And I've written a take off on "Garden Party" called "Bo-Tox Party" we sing at de wrinkling events
6.11.2006 11:11pm

e' Great Drug Songs:
Of course the sine qua non is from Huey Lewis and the News

I Want a New Drug, is not exactly a drug song.

I want a new drug
One that won't make me sick
One that won' make me crash my car
Or make me feel three feet thick

I want a new drug
One that won't hurt my head
One that won't make my mouth too dry
Or make my eyes too red

One that won't make me nervous
Wondering what to do
One that makes me feel like I feel when I'm with you
When I'm alone with you

I want a new drug
One that won't spill
One that don't cost too much
Or come in a pill

I want a new drug
One that won't go away
One that won't keep me up all night
One that won't make me sleep all day

One that won't make me nervous
Wondering what to do
One that makes me feel like I feel when I'm with you
When I'm alone with you
I'm alone with you baby

I want a new drug
One that does what it should
One that won't make me feel too bad
One that won't make me feel too good

I want a new drug
One with no doubt
One that won't make me talk too much
Or make my face break out

One that won't make me nervous
Wondering what to do
One that makes me feel like I feel when I'm with you
When I'm alone with you
6.12.2006 1:02am
Louis Spielman (mail):
And yet, the FAA won't grant you medical approval for a pilot's license if you were on Ritalin as a kid until you have been off of Ritalin for 10 years.
6.13.2006 11:02am
Frankly, I just don't get the song.

I'm a 43 y.o. adult who suffers from ADHD. The meds are just one component of a regimen of "coping" skills and building habits to alter the effects of the constant chaos experienced by those who have the disorder. Using a Franklin planner, for me, is another. I took ritalin when I was a kid. (I chose to pronouce it "rye-taal-lin" since this was the name of a substance featured in an episode of Star Trek) My parents took me off the meds when they noticed that I got similar results from coffee. Similar, but not the same, and as it turned out not good enough. High School was hell on earth and College took 5 years and was littered with dropped courses resulting from the avoidance of demanding work loads and not being able to concentrate on subjects that were required but uninteresting.

Unfortunately, the problem didn't go away as it sometimes does with adulthood. The best way I can describe it as having a head full of pingpong balls that are constantly bouncing around at high speed, 24/7/365. These days, I take Adderall, my Doc tried ritalin, but I found the side effects too harsh.

I have to take the stuff everyday, and it acts very much like a switch. It's easy to go about my normal daily tasks and routine when I take it, and noticibly more difficult, frustrating and confusing when I don't. When I went back to proper meds, after three decades of "self-medication" the change was noticible to those around me. The only real drag for me is that I had to switch to decaf coffee. The interaction between the two stims was unpleasant to say the least.

Both ritalin or adderall, are strong stimulants. Adderall is comprised of equal portions of four different amphetimine salts: Dextroamphetamine Saccharate, Amphetamine Aspartate Monohydrate, Dextroamphetamine Sulfate and Amphetamine Sulfate. Both are Schedule II drugs in the US, requiring a paper prescription for each dispensation, it can't be called in, and it can't be refilled, and you have to show ID when you pick it up.

It's far better to have my life back than to have a cup of joe, but it's just one component of an overall strategy of habits that keep me from lapsing into a form of confusion that leads to an unproductive life that isn't worth a bucket of warm spit.It won't make a zombie out of anyone, for that you need a TV.
6.15.2006 5:24pm