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“And so while every other mother in Littleton was praying that her child was safe, I had to pray that mine would die before he hurt anyone else.” – Sue Klebold, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity

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  1. I can’t imagine any parent praying that their child would die, and doubt that she really did. Columbine is still so sensitive, though, that no compassionate person would be willing to openly challenge her statement.

    • History is full of stories about parents who kill their kids so I can believe this woman wanted her kid to kill himself before he killed more people.

      It is not all that hard to fathom.

  2. I’ve read (actually in a book written by a pro-2A writer specializing in 2A issues) that all those mass school shooting shooters had another thing in common that has never been mentioned by the mass media. They were all taking a Ritalin-type of drug. I’m not aware of what the current side effects are (or simply effects) of those drugs. In the past (maybe present too) of taking the drugs might induce in 5-10% of the cases an opposite reaction to the drug. Rather than mellow out and emotionally castrate the young males as intended, an unintended consequence of the drug ie the reaction might include even more aggressive possibly more hostile behavior.

    • Ritalin and the like do not work that way. They are actually stimulants, chemically related to amphetamines. Mellowing is not the intending (nor really attainable) effect. In a brain with ADHD, the prefrontal cortex of the brain (front-most part), which handles among other things impulse control, does not function properly, lying relatively dormant when it should be activating to inhibit signals coming from elsewhere in the brain i.e. impulses. Stimulants end up activating that part of the brain, along with everything else. At the right doses, stimulating the impulse control center of a brain showing ADHD is enough to overcome the effect of everything else revving up a bit, too.

      Easy and fairly reliable way to see if a kid has ADHD: give them three cans of Coke and see if their ability to focus on homework improves. Caffeine, being a stimulant as well, can have a similar effect.

      That lack of impulse control is also a common symptom of Traumatic Brain Injury, i.e. concussions. Brain rattles around in the skull, the front part is one of the most likely places to get banged into. The occipital lobe, heavily related to vision, in the very back of the brain also usually gets banged up, hence seeing stars.

      • Thank you. I had thought those types of drugs were intended to calm-down mostly school-age boys who were by someone’s definition “hyper-active” or acting out being rowdy as boys can be, and well yes unable to focus? Your comment is the first time I’ve read or heard about Ritalin not being intended to provide a mellowing or calming effect. Interesting that it is more of a focus type of drug than a calming drug. The author of the claim stated that in about 5% (?) of the cases the opposite intended effect could possibly occur. Would that information be correct if you are familiar with the side-effects?

        What are the causes or roots of the problem for needing such drugs? You mentioned brain injuries. Is it simply a natural human weakness having the ADHD or from something more environmental or social too?

        • Gyufygy is exactly right. Ritalin works by stimulating the entire brain, including the impulse-control centers that had been previously slacking off. Ritalin can give the wild kid more “energy” but also helps control its direction.

          It’s the same reason that college students have been known to take Ritalin and the like when cramming for exams. I’ve heard that it’s much better than simply ingesting caffeine because it doesn’t leave you as jittery.

        • I have ADHD. I wasn’t diagnosed until college, but to my knowledge there is no particular environmental cause. I never experienced the hyperactivity side, but the best way I could describe what goes on in my brain without concerta( time release ritalin) is that I am in a constant fog. In addition it’s like someone is playing with a remote control in my brain and the channel changes constantly.

          With concerta, i feel like I’m on speed a bit, but more so like I’ve had a few cups of coffee without the jitters effect. It can stimulate focus only if you set your mind to actually doing that paper or studying for that exam. Once you are zeroed in you basically have tunnel vision and it’s hard to break the focus of attention. I’ve heard of it having the opposite effect on some people but not anyone who had ADHD or was a professional. My doctor has told me it’s a stimulant for everybody.

          One thing to note is that it will intensify any train of thought you set your mind to. I saw a really sad movie(where a dog died) while on meds and I started bawling. I don’t ever cry in movies but that was the result.

          So on the columbine guys, if they were on Ritalin and they focused all of there time on negative behavior and thoughts, it might be plausible that they were so absorbed by whatever caused them to go on a rampage that the meds intensified it. If this was the case they are not exempt from personal accountability and it doesn’t justify it nor should the drug be to blame.

        • Just as a bit of CYA, I’m not a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist. I’ve got a bachelor’s in psych, a fair bit of experience on the patient end, formerly had an interest in being on the doc end, and have read a decent bit. This is not legal/medical/spiritual/ohgoddon’tsueme advice.

          I suppose there are varying degrees of hyperactivity. Some of it is just being a kid, a smaller portion of it may be clinical/pathological. I personally think ADHD meds and diagnoses are thrown around too much, but I and most of the people I know well can tell if I’ve taken my ADHD meds, so I do think it is a legitimate disorder. The gigantic lack of brain activity in the pre-frontal cortex (PFC if it comes up later) on brain scans of people with ADHD trying to focus definitely stands out, too.

          I should have said mellowing or calming are not the direct effect. Stimulants give the part of the brain that filters out all the various inputs we receive a kick in the pants. In an average brain, if you’re focusing on a task, you might notice something shiny, go “oh, that’s cool”, and get back to work. Your PFC inhibits the conscious part that was paying attention to/processing the shiny thing and gets you back on task. In a brain with ADHD, that inhibition is not there or, more likely, greatly reduced, so you get the stereotypical “Ooo, shiny. Oooo, a kitty. Ooo, a bird. I wonder what’s for dinner. I like pizza. What’s in sausage?” train-wreck of thought.

          The seeming calming effect is more the person’s self-control getting better, both in terms of emotional control (e.g. raging, truly epic temper tantrums in kids, straight up anger issues in adults) and focus.

          I have heard about and seen the 5% thing you mention in other situations. I personally know somebody who can take a rather ridiculous number of sedating drugs to try to go to sleep, but get ridiculously hyper instead. It’s more commonly found in those with chemical dependency (alcoholics and drug addicts) and their families. I’ve seen it referred to as “paradoxical effect”, but I haven’t heard anything about it in relation to stimulants for ADHD. Not an expert, though.

          As far as I can tell, there are a lot of different hypotheses about how and why ADHD exists, but there’s no consensus, nothing definitive yet.

          I also should say that TBI and ADHD are not the same thing, and I have not read or heard about anyone being diagnosed with ADHD as a result of a TBI, nor have I heard of stimulants being used to treat the impulse control symptoms of a TBI. Both malfunctions (for lack of a better word) do seem to be related to the same area of the brain, however, and our knowledge of TBIs has increased by amazing amounts since, oh, say, September, 2001. It’s also only been since the 80s and 90s that we’ve had the technology to really start getting a decent look at brain functioning. The brain is such a stupifyingly complex machine, all the research that was done before the existence of MRIs, PET scans, EEGs, and whatnot barely scratched the surface. Hell, we’re still scratching the surface, but the scratches are getting deeper.

          Alright, enough science rambling. Also, anybody with more (or more recent, this stuff is as cutting edge as can be) education or experience, please chime in and correct me if I’m wrong on something.

          Edit: Heh, more comments while I was writing. FWIW, everything they say lines up with my knowledge of the subject.

        • My thanks to everyone who has commented and contributed. I always want to know as much about any subject that I am commenting about and I am always open to constructive corrections when I am making mistakes.

        • It reminds me of the slogan from a series of coffee ads that ran several years ago:

          “It calms you down while it perks you up.”

        • The possible causes for an ADHD diagnoses are so varied as to make a complete listing here impossible.

          However, some of the possibilities include misdiagnosis away from autism spectrum disorder, prodromal schizophrenia or bi-polar disorders, drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, malnutrition, environmental contaminates, non-compatible social expectations (kid comes from an active and outspoken family, clashes with expectations of restrained behavior in school), puberty, and so on.

          ADHD could be caused by a specific error in the structure or function of the brain, but I think it is more often a summary of symptoms rather than a diagnoses of an underlying problem. It would be like giving a diagnoses of chest pain rather than coronary heart disease.

          Also, I’m not a psychiatrist or doctor. I’m just overly familiar with some terms and concepts after years of caring for an ill family member.

      • I remember Henry Rollins having a good analogy about Ritalin. It’s like watching a spinning wheel, and then speeding it up to a speed at which it does not look like it’s spinning anymore.

      • I didn’t know that these kids were on behavioral drugs, but it doesn’t surprise me given the frequency they are prescribed. The numbers of kids eating behavioral drugs for apparent neurologic issues has exploded in the past 20 years, for some strange reason.

        • One reason speculated is that parents are overworked, and at the same time the expectations for children are so much higher in academics and sports that prescription drugs are seen as a short-cut or labor-saving device. Rather than “waste” time on discipline and teaching, just dope the kid and hope for the best.

          However, I have never read anything that would suggest that Klebold and Harris were involved in sports or that they followed high academic standards. However, they apparently had a lot of unsupervised free-time judging by videos found among their possessions, and they had access to firearms too; with no particular oversight of, or challenge to, the way they viewed the world or how they understood concepts like right and wrong.

  3. Partial repost:
    For the benefit of those who may not know, Columbine was a failed bombing attempt perpetrated by two deranged youths who laughed at petty school shooters, bragged about dwarfing the carnage in the Oklahoma City bombing and inflicting the most deaths in U.S. history.
    Their plan went awry when the two propane bombs planted in the cafeteria failed to detonate. The purpose for the guns was to shoot any fleeing victims who survived the explosions.
    Jefferson County, Colorado Sheriff’s Report
    The Bombs at the School
    “There were approximately 357 pieces of explosive evidence identified and collected.”

    Truth? Google: and read ‘The Depressive and the Psychopath’ by Dave Cullen.

    • This.

      Eric and Dylan waited outside the school for the bomb in the cafeteria to detonate during the busiest lunch hour. They went inside when that didnt happen.

      Dave Cullens book, “Columbine” was an enlightening read. Especially because I never knew the facts.

  4. Having a 19 year old son who was diagnosed as having ADHD by his mothers doctor I can tell you first hand Ritalin doesn’t always have the effect it is supposed to.
    My son would absolutely bounce off the walls when on the meds. I ended up having to put him on the minimal dose of Concerta(?) for him to be able to focus on anything.
    That being said I have seen numerous kids on Ritalin and Concerta who were die and just needed a good butt whooping to straighten them out, but the parent(s) were getting free meds and a check for their kids being disabled to the point of not being able to attend school!!!
    If you have been around kids with Mental Disorders for a period of time you get to where you can usually distinguish between disability and just plain old bratiness or lack of parenting!!!
    Just my observations over the years.

    • Yeah, balancing effects with side effects, dosages, release speed, and all that is definitely a mixture of art and science right now.

      Heh, I think I got spanked 5 times total, and each of those was when I was bouncing off the walls super insane hyper. Dad held me down, gave me one swat on the butt, and that was all I needed to reset and get out of that mode. Still couldn’t focus worth a damn, but I wasn’t carrying on like a howler monkey on cocaine, either.

      • I didn’t have ADHD or anything like that but got more than 5 whippings before I turned 18.
        Got the two worse ones for being a “Selective Hearing Child”!!!
        Got my first motorcycle at 10 yrs old and first thing Dad said was”No Wheelies till you learn how to ride correctly”, second day I tried it and endo’d over the bars and into Dads blackberry bushes, got the spanking after all the scabs and rash healed up!!!
        Second time Grandpa told me and my cousin(about 13 or 14 at the time) to not be shooting fireworks around the upper pasture. We of course not really listening burned up 3 acres of good Bermuda Hay when we got into a bottle rocket/firecracker war!!! That one still hurts, Grandpa had a razor strap that was a real eye opener and convincer!! Didn’t need Ritalin or Concerta, just a good lesson on listening!!

  5. Academic difficulties are also frequent. The symptoms are especially difficult to define because it is hard to draw a line at where normal levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity end and clinically significant levels requiring intervention begin. To be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms must be observed in two different settings for six months or more and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.


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