Don’t Blame Ritalin for Tragedy

At the end of last week, we heard news that is all too common in recent times. An armed teenager went to his school and assassinated ten of his fellow classmates. Were this the end of the story, we would mourn with you, but we’d have reserved comment. We focus on helping adults with ADHD lead successful, happy lives. But our efforts include standing with our tribe when we’re under attack. We’re not Marines, but we know it’s the right thing to do.

Incoming chair of the National Rifle Association, Oliver North, commented on school shootings. He stated, “Many of these young boys have been on Ritalin since they were in kindergarten.” Hearing him malign Ritalin, and by extension ADHD, got us riled. We must respond. With no basis in fact, his comment is an obvious attempt to deflect blame from his organization. His comments are not meaningless.

The truth about ADHD medicines is that they help those who need them. Ritalin and other stimulants help people focus and organize their thoughts. They are essential for us to cope… at school, in social situations, when driving, at work, and a hundred other scenarios we encounter every day. To be clear, ADDA is not “pro meds”. We recommend working with trained mental health professionals. Together, you will determine if medication is a good part of your ADHD treatment plan.

Mr. North’s comment panders to people who stigmatize ADHD. Many see taking medications for mental health as weak. All while promoting medications for high blood pressure, cholesterol and other medical conditions. This is a stigma those of us with ADHD feel daily. Blaming teenagers and their Ritalin for these atrocities is a direct attack on the ADHD community.

Mental health is a serious issue. Millions of people suffer needlessly the stigma of ADHD and other mental health issues. For the NRA to be adding to the stigma people with ADHD suffer with no proof whatsoever is shameful. They have no proof for their finger-pointing. Ritalin is a valid, research-supported part of a full treatment plan families create with a medical professional
-Duane Gordon, ADDA President

We have no theories on the reasons for these massacres. But, we can say treating ADHD leads to a better quality of life and fewer behavioral challenges. Sadly, many people go without treatment due to rising costs and insurance cutbacks. Yes, we need to look at many of the issues surrounding recent events. But blaming ADHD medications that help those who have them prescribed does not help. To suggest that Ritalin was a contributing factor is irresponsible and reprehensible.

ADDA takes pride in staying out of the political arena. But we know quality mental health care is life-changing. For some, that mental health care includes medication. ADHD is not trivial. It is not made up. Help us fight the stigma millions of people with ADHD, people like you, feel every day.

Share this article with your friends and family. Support those who believe everyone has a right to quality mental health care. And support ADDA by becoming a member if you are not already.

Keith Griffin is a member of the ADDA Board of Directors, an ADHD Coach, and host of the Podcast This ADHD Life. You can find out more about Keith through his website, You may also view his personal response on YouTube.


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      • Bobby
      • November 13, 2018

      “Sadly, many people go without treatment due to rising costs and insurance cutbacks.”
      You can get it off the street cheaper than through the proper legal channels and in bulk too!

      • Al
      • July 25, 2018

      Perhaps we too, are quick to judge. And, too quick to judgement. Mr. North, not being an expert on ADHD, was perhaps relying on the reference to the drug Ritalin, to indicate or reference the disorder. He neither maligned the drug, nor the affliction. What many professionals are unaware of, is that during and after Lt. Colonel Oliver North’s active military service, many high performing military professionals, when suggesting to the military medical authorities that they might be suffering from ADHD, and requesting treatment, were shocked at the reply. That response was typically that if they were diagnosed, that they would not be treated for the disorder, but would be medically discharged, ending a successful, long career, and losing any possibility for retirement. So, not seeking help was rewarded. Not dealing with the impulsiveness, and other aspects of the disorder, being given the choice of no choice, would sometimes lead to the very thing they sought to preserve, their career. This knee-jerk reaction to a very small part of Mr. North’s comment on perhaps the hyperactivity of young boys, is counterproductive. By attacking this, and Mr. North, we are losing a golden opportunity to educate those in prestigious positions. Rather than seeking to understand the entirety of what he meant to say when he referenced Ritalin, and not using that instance to educate and assist a fellow human being, we lost an opportunity to promote understanding of the disorder, and impart knowledge to someone who will again be speaking publicly. What better chance was there to win someone to our side? Maybe I should put it another way. When was the last time that you were attacked for something you said or did, and, you were nonetheless, not feeling bullied, ashamed, or defeated, spurred to correct that situation, and rise above all, and willingly change? How would we like to be treated? Let us learn from this, and use this opportunity to bring others to an understanding of our side.

        • Lawrence S Taylor
        • July 28, 2018

        I agree with Al.
        What’s more, it raises the opportunity for simple statistical research: Of the mass murders in the last decade (school shootings, etc), how many of the perpetrators were known to be on Ritalin?
        If the answer is of statistical significance -“Yes”, then we should be humble & do the further research to hunt for a solution, but if “No”, then we should educate Mr North and the public on the truth.

    1. Reply

      Ollie North needs to stick with what he knows. Iran-Contra or whatever. Sheesh

      • Reply

        I very consciously avoided Iran-Contra in my post. Thank you for being on the same wavelength and the laugh.

    2. Reply

      Great job Keith!! I missed this as one more example of how we are indeed “stigmatized” through the use of the “demon stimulant medications”. It is amazing. “Doubters” and outright “non-believers” in ADHD (who clearly have not read the many volumes of research which validate the fact that ADHD is a “real” neurological condition) make a BUNCH of “insinuations” about those of us with ADHD with one “off the cuff” comment about medication. To wit- ADHD does not exist and was created by pharmaceutical companies so that they could sell stimulants to little kids who really just need a good kick in the a– from their irresponsible parents. The further “insinuation” is that it is even MORE CLEAR that at best, it is a condition that children have. Adults are simply lazy malingerers!! We must call such statements to task every time by stating clearly that medication can genuinely enhance lives positively for many individuals with ADHD. The comparison to meds for physical conditions is always a “winner” as a metaphor. Again well done, Keith. Pete Resch ADHD Coach

      • Tim C.
      • May 24, 2018

      Thank you for bringing this to my attention Keith. And thank you ADDA for the platform allowing Keith to do it.

      At 58 years old, a life time ADHD sufferer that wasn’t diagnosed until my early 40’s, a long time member of the NRA, and the husband of a school teacher with a 20 year career doing it, I can say that no additional gun laws would have prevented the shooting, anymore than Ritalin caused it, or any of the other school shootings.

      The bottom line of the problem, and the most common subject in all of the school shootings is “BULLYING”. If school teachers were allowed to appropriately discipline their students for bullying and disorderly conduct, the kids feeling helpless in an environment they are forced to be in, would not be using guns as a last resort to stop the brutal torture they are binging forced to undergo. As an underclassman in high school, being a basketball star from 7th grade throughout high school, it kept me from being bullied. Being small in size with a constant underlying inferiority complex my Jr.-Sr. years, yet having a little more clout, my empathy for the geeks and nerds allowed me to protect them from being bullied in the PE locker room where the majority of the bullied occurred due to no teacher supervision. I did it by making fun of the bully for picking on someone he knew was defenseless. So whether the shooter was suffering from ADHD, or whether he was taking Ratilin or not, doesn’t have any place in the conversation and Oliver North was totally out of line. If I would have had to deal with the bullying I saw going on my freshman & sophomore years, I might have considered using what means I had available to stop it. If not a gun, a knife, hammer, or club.

      With North being a new president of the NRA and me a being a long time member of the NRA , the NRA will be receiving a letter from me condemning North’s unqualified and inappropriate statement, expressing my feelings that he should publicly apologize, with the risk of permanently loosing a long time member if he doesn’t.

      • Reply

        To be clear, this article was not intended to take a stance on gun control. Sadly, North’s comments may have led to additional bullying of those students that do have ADHD and take medication throughout the day.

        Bullying is a huge issue these days with may causes and potential solutions. Personally, I advocate how I can to let the world as a whole understand that ADHD is real, it has positives, and it should provide no ammunition to bullies.

        Thank you for your willingness to write that letter. It will be interesting to see if/how they respond.

    3. Reply

      This was a wonderful response, thank you for taking the time to craft it. Shared on my social media pages. ❤️

      • Reply

        Thank you for that share. My account on Twitter blew up! Keep up the good fight.

      • Wabbut
      • May 23, 2018

      One sweeping statement from an unqualified public figure does this country a disservice. Unfortunately people who admire him might automatically believe that what he says is true. But think about it. Wouldn’t it be great if banning ritalin would make this problem go away? Well, it’s doesn’t. All it will do is shift blame to innocent people who just want to feel welcome in a world whose standards of “normal” is defined by people who can’t accept that there is no such thing as normal.

      • Reply

        You point to perhaps a larger issue that we as a community face. We have very few qualified public figured that regularly do interviews in places that the majority of Americans, and the world, will see them.

      • plv2009
      • May 23, 2018

      As a gun owner, I don’t support the NRA either lol. They constantly give in to politicians trying to further their career and the publicizing of these crimes which only add to them occurring. For those out there that have never bought a gun, but have a position on how easy you can obtain one, try it sometime yourself.
      On what the guy said, it doesn’t necessarily mean he was talking about people with adhd. It’s probably more likely that he was talking about the misdiagnosis of adhd in young children that are then treated with ritalin. Individuals not professionally deemed needing of a drug intervention to help correct various deficiencies are not supposed to take them because of what the drugs may do to them.

      • Reply

        You’ve given me an experiment to embrace. I’ve never bought a gun, but have considered it after a recent move. Perhaps I’ll take you up on your challenge. Though to be fair, I have no position on whether or not it’s (too) easy to buy a gun.

        He may indeed have been referring to those he feels are misdiagnosed. While I’m certain misdiagnosis does happen, I doubt it’s as frequent as many would believe. Seems akin to your argument about how easy it is to buy a gun. The truth about both is likely somewhere between what we believe.

    4. Reply

      Thank you for writing this Keith, and thank you ADDA for posting it.
      A few weeks after Hip Hop singer said Ritalin ruins kids, turns them into zombies, and destroys their creativity is beyond infuriating. And deflecting the Gun Violence onto hot-button issues, even ones that are completely invented, is so dangerous.
      I can’t believe he reflects the beliefs of the majority of NRA members, or the military. And yet it will do damage to people who have found ADHD medications to be helpful, even foundational.
      I spoke with an Ex-Marine who told me that it’s interesting for a Marine to say there’s a culture of violence elsewhere, because the Marine Corps is a culture of violence, among other things, which is necessary for them to do their job.
      Cannot imagine what other parents of kids with ADHD and adults are making of this. I assume anyone coming to ADDA already knows the facts.

      • Reply

        You’re welcome Rick, I appreciate your comments. There is a lot of misinformation about ADHD in the world today. Many people believe it doesn’t exist and if it does, it’s over diagnosed. Sadly, the opposite is true. The misinformation has to be combated on an almost daily basis.

        You’d be surprised how many emails I get personally and as part of ADDA from folks suggesting they have the “natural” solution for ADHD. Ironically their views often embrace the ADHD trait of Black an White thinking. I’ve pointed it out a few in the past and never heard back.

        Thank you for all you do for our community!

      • Stephen Tully
      • May 23, 2018

      Thank you for this position! I felt like Oliver North and the NRA were looking at me, as one of many persons in the U.S. and world with ADHD and who take Ritalin (or a derivative) as part of a well structured treatment plan, as the cause of the problem. This stands in complete opposition to my values. I would never dream of carrying out such a horrific and senseless act of violence.

      His comments are beyond irresponsible, and frankly deflect from the larger problem at hand (for which the NRA chooses not to accept responsibility) which is the easy access to guns and an outdated protection of a person to own them. I know that is a political position, but one which must be stated if Oliver North and the NRA insist on making it OUR problem.

      • Stu..
      • May 23, 2018

      I know i’m UK BUT!! ? its the operator not the med’s what next Statins raise gun violence too…..

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