Ethics Committee has concerns about Ritalin

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The Swiss National Ethics Committee has concerns about "Ritalin" for children

A statement by the Swiss National Ethics Committee raised serious concerns about the increasing use of psychotropic drugs for enhancement, the pharmacologically produced increase in brain performance. Enhancement in children deserves special attention:

"Here, there is an increasing tendency towards pharmacological interventions that do not yet affect (fully) competent people, about which adults, usually parents, can also make health-related decisions. This tendency is only experienced by the parents' motivation," wanting and ensuring the best "for their child, additional buoyancy. Often," the best "is defined with a view to future life in society: Parents generally want the child to stand up well in the competition for education and job , especially by improving his cognitive, but also emotional and social skills and increasing his “stress resistance.” This competition starts very early, especially when school starts. As is well known, psychotropic drugs also have an effect on healthy children. The incentive for parents is correspondingly great to use such means to promote the child's attention and concentration and it to make it more competitive. Such an “optimization” of the child's abilities happens quickly and unnoticed, so that the parents do not have to make critical comments.

From an ethical perspective, it is important that the diagnosis of, for example, an attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiance or an anxiety disorder is a technical challenge because it is difficult to draw a line between normal and pathological child behavior. It can also be assumed that the increase in the consumption of psychotropic drugs has also shifted or shifted the standards as to which behaviors of a child or adolescent are socially acceptable and "normal" - or are classified as pathological. Since the diagnosis is also influenced by such social assessments and an interest that children behave appropriately in kindergarten and school, a further increase in prescriptions can be expected. This example shows that the distinction between enhancement and the need for therapy is culturally and historically variable - and therefore also requires ethical reflection.

The consumption of pharmacological agents can have further effects on the character, because the child is taught that only with the help of such agents does it "function" in a socially recognized manner. Insofar as its character traits are adapted by medication and made dependent on psychotropic drugs, it has consequences for its personal development and self-esteem and could favor the formation of patterns for addictive behavior. The pressure to conform, under which children are exposed on the part of parents and educational institutions, enforces a standard of normality, which reduces the tolerance towards childhood. The variety of temperaments and ways of life could also be reduced and ultimately the child's right to an open life path could be endangered. The NEK-CNE advocates adapting living conditions to the interests and needs of children. Otherwise, the qualities of childhood, which do not concern aspects of social competition and performance, but play, friendship and leisure, could be less valued - and with it the childhood itself ". (Pm)

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Image: Rainer Sturm /

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