Exploring Human Potential

Who named “Ritalin?”

Posted on | March 28, 2019 | 1 Comment

Rita and Leandro Panizzon

Mike Magee

Last week our “somewhat-less-than-excellent” American culture took an extra Trumpian hit. But this had nothing to do with gender abuse, or separating innocent children from their desperate parents, or even moves to knock 20 million Americans off their ACA enabled health insurance.

No this latest offense involved celebrities and the super-rich bribing their children’s pathways into elite colleges. While many expressed surprise and bewilderment, I was not among them. The reason can be found in chapter 8 of “Code Blue: Inside the Medical Industrial Complex” (Grove Atlantic/June 4, 2019).

In that chapter, I disclose how some parents, in concert with local teachers and compliant physicians, placed their young children on Ritalin and Adderall to improve their performance on standardized tests.

According to the American Psychological Association, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects 5 percent of America’s youngsters, though nearly 15 percent of high-school-age boys have been labeled with the condition. Yet no blood test or imaging study is available to confirm the diagnosis; there’s just a weakly validated 39-question yes-or-no survey that’s distributed far and wide in pediatricians’ offices, through the media, and through public and private schools nationwide.

When the diagnosis is broken down by gender, demographics, and geography, the distribution of ADHD becomes even more mystifying and disturbing. Rates can double and triple in areas, most notably Arkansas, Kentucky,Louisiana, and Tennessee, where schools promote the diagnosis and local physicians are willing to play along and prescribe.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that among poor and disadvantaged two- to five-year-olds who carry the diagnosis of ADHD, more than 75 percent are placed on drugs, while only half ever receive “any form of psychological services.”

Encouraged by a million-dollar grant from CIBA pharmaceuticals(originally Chemical Industries Basel) in 1989, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), with 34,000 members in 640 chapters, currently trumpets, on its website, the “12 amazing superpowers” associated with hyperactivity.

According to CHADD, medicated juveniles multitask with a “laser focus” and score high on tests, a result no parent or teacher would object to. In 2012 comedian Stephen Colbert critically labeled the behavior “meducation.”

The problem is that even when these pills deliver short-term, positive results, they short circuit the child’s development of strategies that can provide long-term solutions and success in adulthood. And as one might predict, anything in our culture that promises a quicker route to academic success is an invitation for illicit use.

For the whole story on the ADHD scam, you’ll need to read Code Blue, available for pre-order at In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one fascinating tidbit to use at your next social gathering:

Q. Who invented the name Ritalin? 

A. The drug, Methylphenamine hydrochloride – an updated formulation of pre-WWII drug, Dexedrine – was created by CIBA chemist, Leandro Panizzon in 1956. His wife, Marguerite, was a tennis enthusiast looking for that extra oomph. Her nickname, Rita, provided the brand name—Ritalin. Although the company initially marketed the drug—with a 5,000 percent markup—for the treatment of depression and fatigue, in time it pivoted to a novel marketing pitch to therapists and counselors. These clinicians, CIBA said, should give the drug to their patients before a session because it could “help psychiatric patients talk in as little as 5 minutes.”


One Response to “Who named “Ritalin?””

  1. Arthur L Ulene
    March 28th, 2019 @ 3:17 pm

    Wow! Thanks for that.

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