I Bambini e le Droghe’: The Right to Ritalin vs the Right to Childhood in Italy
Giovanni Frazzettoa1 c1, Sinéad Keenana1 and Ilina Singha1
a1 BIOS, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE UK
|DRUG AN INFANT OR STROKE A DOG TO STAY CALM?|
Despite the widespread consumption of stimulant drugs such as Ritalin (methylphenidate) for the treatment of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), understanding of the differing national realities of the ADHD/methylphenidate phenomenon is especially impoverished. In this article, we give an introductory description of the scientific-historical, cultural and ideological factors that have shaped the diagnosis of ADHD and its treatment in Italy. Qualitative empirical analysis of the national debate on the use of methylphenidate and of parents’ experiences with the drug reveals that, in the Italian context, the evolution of the ADHD/Ritalin phenomenon has been largely shaped by dynamics within the country’s psychiatric practices and health system, as well as by attitudes towards mental illness. We suggest that in Italy, the current dynamics in the regulation of methylphenidate inscribe ADHD diagnosis and stimulant drug treatment as moral choices. On both the political and the familial level, these choices are grounded in sometimes opposing conceptions of vital civil rights and national ideals: the ‘right to medication’, the ‘right to mental health care’ and the ‘right to childhood’. Our study illustrates that close analysis of specific cultural contexts can be useful in understanding how attitudes towards mental disorders and the use of psychotropic drugs can be shaped by the social practices and medical habits of a country.
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