Michael Phelps Said No to Ritalin

If Michael Phelps had stayed on Ritalin, would he be where he is today? Here’s a story Thomas Szasz would appreciate:

At age 9, Michael was put on Ritalin, a stimulant used to treat hyperactivity.

His mother thinks it helped a little. “He seemed to be able to focus longer,” she said. “He could get through homework without moving around so much.” She said he was still a middling student. “It might have raised some C’s to B’s,” she said. But if a homework assignment had to be at least four sentences, she said, “he’d just do four sentences.”

After two years, Michael asked to get off the meds. He had to go to the school nurse’s office to take a pill at lunch, she said, and felt stigmatized. “Out of the blue, he said to me: ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, Mom. My buddies don’t do it. I can do this on my own.’ ”

“I was always stern as a parent,” she said, “but from Day 1, I included my children as part of the decision process. So I listened.” After consulting with Dr. Wax, Michael stopped medication.

David T. Beito, a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and a retired professor of history at the University of Alabama, is the co-author of T.R.M. Howard: Doctor, Entrepreneur, Civil Rights Pioneer and is writing a new book, FDR’s War on the Bill of Rights.
Posts by David Beito | Full Biography and Publications
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