This is FRONTLINE's old website. The content here may be outdated or no longer functioning.

Browse over 300 documentaries
on our current website.

Watch Now
homewatch onlinefour familiesthe drugsadhdbacklashdiscussion
press reaction

San Francisco Chronicle / John Carman

"...A Frontline installment called 'Medicating Kids' is unlikely to satisfy either side in the debate over psychoactive drugs.

Frontline focuses on four Denver-area kids with a history of fidgeting, impulsiveness, disruptive behavior and, in one case, sever depression and attempted suicide...

...Frontline is disappointingly brief on the politics and marketing of Ritalin and the rest. But then, the cozy relationships between doctors and drug companies is a ripe topic for another program.

The documentary is also frustratingly skimpy on the causes of ADHD and on why these prescription drugs seem to help many of the children.

Skimpy by necessity. No one knows exactly. It's in the brain, and scientifically, we know more about armpits than brains."

Houston Chronicle - Ann Hodges

"...PBS' flagship documentary series turns its sharp attention to a report resting on the cases of four youngsters whose doctors have prescribed [behavior modifying] drugs, with mixed results...

...What makes Frontline's yearlong research project especially noteworthy is that [the parents] get equal time. These problems can place as much stress on them as on a child.

If you're looking for answers, you won't find any easy ones here, but you will find some food for thought."

The Newark Star Ledger - Matt Zoller Seitz

"Is America over-medicating its children? Tonight's Frontline, title 'Medicating Kids,' about the effects of Ritalin and similar drugs, doesn't supply a definitive answer. But it does raise powerful and perhaps unresolvable questions...

...The central debate over these drugs is whether they're a safe, reasonable response to problems children have always had - or if they're just a way for understaffed, underdisciplined, interventionist school systems to avoid having to deal seriously with children who aren't mentally or physically disabled but need special attention anyway.

Frontline does a good job of examining these issues, with a brief but illuminating side trip that investigates how drug companies push these drugs through seemingly disinterested doctors.

But you might wish for a less conspiratorial tone; the pulsing, horror-filmish music is a bit much, as are editorializing close-ups, like the one of a sign outside a suburban development that reads 'Model Homes.'

Also unexamined is the possible role some experts believe these drugs play in the recent epidemic of school violence; some articles have suggested that the drugs cause feelings of paranoia, alienation and rage in some boys. All in all, however, 'Medicating Kids' is a worthy documentary on a contentious subject."

Rocky Mountain News - Dusty Saunders

"...[M]edication for youngsters has become a nationwide debate and the subject of an even-handed report, 'Medicating Kids,' on public television's Frontline...

...As it normally does, Frontline explores all aspects of the controversy without being judgmental...

...On a national and world stage filled with controversial events, 'Medicating Kids' may not seem to hold much importance, but it's an issue that parents, physicians and educators must face.

The debate is just heating up. And Frontline is on the front line."

South Florida Sun-Sentinel - Tom Jicha

"There's a horror story on PBS tonight, presented by the usually staid documentary series Frontline. If you're a parent, especially one with a child diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder (ADD), 'Medicating Kids' should give you cold sweats. But even if children are not a part of your life, this Frontline installment is worth a look, because an arguable manufactured crisis is costing the government a fortune...

...Some children undoubtedly need help. 'Medicating Kids' focuses on four youngsters in the Denver area; it appears the quality of life for two of them has been enhanced by behavior-modifying pharmaceuticals. The value of drugging kids in the other cases is debatable...

...Frontline reports the facts nonjudgmentally for the most part, but it shouldn't be difficult for viewers to connect the dots. Drug companies are making billions selling ADD and ADHD medications. Doctors are doing well financially, too, treating what could be a phantom affliction in many instances. Some teachers are like Nurse Rachett in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,' finding it easier to deal with someone who is mellowed out on drugs. Parents can comfort themselves with the notion that their offspring aren't slow learners or discipline cases who need extra attention. They are ADD victims..."

TV Guide / Susan Stewart

"If you're looking for yet another opinion on Ritalin, you won't get it in the careful, evenhanded "Medicating Kids." FRONTLINE takes on the controversial condition Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and the medicines prescribed for it by doing what journalism does best: telling stories. ...Some call it a miracle, others a mistake. Frontline gives no answers while painting a sympathetic picture of those struggling with the question. "

Fort Worth Star-Telegram / Carolyn Poirot

"...this week two major hourlong television documentaries examine one of the most serious issues facing contemporary society, and offer some helpful guidelines.

A&E Network's Investigative Reports presents "Generation RX: Reading, Writing & Ritalin"....

The Frontline report follows the troubles and triumphs of four Colorado families over a year. It is a little less scientific and more sympathetic in its approach to families sturggling on both sides of a highly personal and difficult issues...."

The News Tribune / Joanne Weintraub

Both the PBS and A&E hours...present Ritalin horror stories and other cases where the drug seems to be helping troubled kids to live better lives. They also find so-called experts who can't seem to see beyond their deeply entrenched positions...

"...Bill Kurtis, the producer and host of the A&E hour, favors a melodramatic tone that tends to make whatever he's talking about seem like a sinister conspiracy.

...Frontline, in contrast, seems more disturbed by efforts to get children off of psychiatric drugs. Though the program notes the aggressive efforts of pharmaceutical manufacturers to promote their products to doctors, it paints a picture of anti-drug campaigner Weisman and a few others as reactionaries determined to return medicine to the 19th century.

The PBS program also offers a tantalizing hint that, in the near future, ADHD and similar disorders won't be as mystifying to doctors as they are today..."

The New York Times / William McDonald

"...Given the programs' similarities, the obvious question is, which is the one to watch: "Generation Rx: Reading, Writing and Ritalin," to be shown on A&E or "Medicating Kids," a Frontline special...

The answer is not so cut and dried. Both hourlong documentaries are serious, sometimes startling contributions to an important discussion over the increasing--and some say spurious--diagnosis of attention deficit disorder...each program contains an angle or two that the other doesn't....

The Kurtis production wastes no time in establishing a darkly dramatic approach, not to mention tipping its hand to its sympathies."It's scary: we're polluting our best resource," says an anonymous, unchallenged voice in the opening. "Putting our kids on these drugs when they really don't need it." Mr. Kurtis, the host, asserts that use of the drugs may challenge "the very essence of childhood itself."

Frontline takes a more measured tack, which ultimately gives it the edge, declaring at the outset its more open-minded intentions: "We wanted to know why kids are being prescribed these drugs and whether or not they help."

St. Petersburg Times / Jacqueline Cutler

"...The well-done 'Medicating Kids'...takes viewers into the homes of parents who made the difficult decision to put their children on prescription drugs...

The show deserves kudos for ferreting out very different cases...."

home · watch the program · four families · adhd drugs · adhd · backlash
readings · adhd in schools · interviews · discussion · the producers · viewers' guide
synopsis · tapes & transcripts · press reaction · credits
frontline · wgbh · pbs online

pill photograph copyright ©2001 photodisc all rights reserved
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation