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The Disconcerting Advertisement of Concerta

I ran across the advertisement you see below while flipping through the November 2008 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Who knew that you could get a new, improved child to go along with the redesigned living room?

adhd kid targeted for drugs

adhd drug side effectsThe first thing that bothered me was the purpose of this medication, as described in the advertisement. The ad changes the wandering, forgetful mind of a child into the singular mind of an achiever. However, it’s perfectly normal for a child of the age pictured in the ad to leave a backpack on the bus, or to fight with a sibling, to forget homework, and to provoke calls home from a teacher. That’s all part of growing up.

I know that there are small numbers of children who have real, serious ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms. The symptoms described in this advertisement don’t rise to that level at all, but the advertisement suggests to parents that they medicate away this ordinary level of mind-wandering, so that their children can make their teachers happy, and stay focused on their assignments.

What will that child miss as a result of living life on a straight line instead of wandering path? Some of the most important thinking in life is not a simple matter of receiving an assignment, and following directions to its completion. Our minds wander for an important reason – to enable us to acquire information that others have not yet gathered, and to allow us to bring previously known facts together in unexpected ways.

We started Irregular Times because we’re dedicated to the ideal of irregular thought. The people who contribute to this site find it difficult to remain within the strictly defined rules and roles for living commonly held as ideal. We see the value in a disorderly life, but that doesn’t mean we have any disorder.

Turning the page, the advertisement for Concerta grew even more disconcerting. There, on two full magazine pages, were the legally-required notices about the side effects of Concerta. Among possible side effects such as death from heart failure are those you see here,to the right.

This medication, which is supposed to help your kid get on the straight and narrow path to life, can actually provoke them into depression or swings between mania and depression, hostility, and paranoid hallucinations. Those kinds of psychological side effects are not going to help any child fit in and follow along.

A more honest advertisement for Concerta might look like this:

concerta can cause severe psychological difficulty

The underlying idea of Concerta seems to be that it can bring the children who take it into concert with the expectations of society so that they can work in concert with their peers and in concert with the desires of the adults in authority over them. I know that life can be difficult for nonconformists, but I wouldn’t attempt to enforce conformity upon my children if its not what they wanted for themselves.

Children all struggle. They shouldn’t have to struggle with life-threatening, sanity-imperiling side effects of medication. They shouldn’t be exposed to such risks unless other dangers are even greater. Losing a backpack on the bus, forgetting homework, and getting a phone call from a teacher don’t even come close to this threshhold.

Looking at this advertisement in detail provoked me to question the worth of a medication like Concerta. So, why would the company who made concerta bother spending money on such an advertisement? Wouldn’t that be counterproductive for sales?

Keep in mind that my reaction came after a sustained examination and consideration of the print ad. What the maker of Concerta is counting on is that most readers of Better Homes and Gardens won’t examine and consider the advertisement in detail. Most readers will look quickly at an advertisement like this, pick up the top two or three ideas that they can perceive most quickly, and then move on.

In other words, the makers of Concerta are counting on parents to have a short attention span and a problem focusing on details.

The image seen above tells a human story that’s emotionally compelling to parents who feel out of control of their children. It’s communicated visually as well as linguistically, with graphic elements that steer a lazy reader’s eye from one thought to another.

The two pages of information about side effects don’t have those same cognitive aids. They’re in simple black and white text, with little embellishment to catch the eye and n visual cues to assist a reader in understanding the risks of taking Concerta.

Most people aren’t rational, logical dedicated interpreters of media. Pharmaceutical advertisers know that, and so can be confident that, as long they give give separate and unequal contexts to the benefits and risks of the medications they sell, their medications will keep on selling.

7 thoughts on “The Disconcerting Advertisement of Concerta”

  1. HareTrinity says:


    Almost as worrying as these ads designed to trick parents into getting their children onto meds this early in life is that inappropriate used of medication may discourage people with REAL problems from getting proper treatment.

    Not that ADHD can’t be a real problem (though there are certainly doubts about it) but at any rate it is best treated with psychology-based methods

  2. Samuel says:

    I agree that ADHD should be taken very seriously.
    I am 22 now, but been diagnosed with ADD, and Concerta totally changed my life. I really don’t know how I could manage everything alone without this medication. However, most of people are showing “symptoms” of ADD, so it’s very tricky for a doctor, to be 100% sure of the diagnosis, so it is the parents’ responsability to be very careful, and to observe their child. If you get in the doctor’s office telling yourself you’re going to get out of this office with a prescription, you will probably. So just be very wise, as the behaviors of your child could be caused by several differents co-laterals.

  3. Ian says:

    I agree with Samuel. Also 22, Concerta is what I believe to have been a real blessing. I started Concerta at the age of 6 – reading was my biggest hurdle. Within weeks of starting Concerta I was flying through books. Put simply, my mind wandered too much for me to focus on the simplest of tasks. As an adult, I struggle with the question of whether or not it continues to make a difference. There are days it makes me irritable, and days where without it I simply would not function. Might a strong cup of coffee suffice?

  4. Jenna says:

    I’m wondering what to do with my 10 year old boy. He’s struggling so much in school and getting bad grades almost enough to set him back in 5th grade next year and the year just started. He’s never had any problems in school except for this year and I don’t know what to do. He’s extremely intelligent and when he’s able to focus on his homework, he blazes through it with no problem. I don’t agree with medication, but I don’t want to see him struggle and be left back. He seems to break down and cry over the smallest things. I know he’s stressed out because he’s getting bad grades and his teacher and I are on him constantly to stay focused and sit still. I’ve talked to my doctor and he’s not one to push meds either, but he thinks this Concerta may help a bit. He wants to put him on the lowest dosage and says I can take him off it on the weekends and breaks and things. I’m not sure what to do.

    1. Urs Gantenbein says:

      HI Jenna,

      dont give him this stuff or any other medication just because your son is diffrent.

      give him time, give him moving, go out with him let him run, let him do physical work outs.

      ADHD, does not exist in my oppinion, it’s just a good reason to put children on medication to keep em still so that no troubles may disturb the pity little world of schools parents and polititians.

      i’m 34, and i’m glad that ADHD was not invented by any money and gain fokused Pharma Companies.
      because they would have give me this medication as well. but my parents acted wisely, and gave me loads of time outside to do what a young boy has to do.

      i just see that so many children today think that they are weird and sick and misfits AFTER some doctors told them that they way they are ist a “disease”.

      sure if your children are continously violent and angry there is a NEED in change. but medication wont change anything! it just calms the situation for a while and it’s just a matter of time till it’s getting worse. and at some point it wont be possible to raise the dose!!!

      but if you beliefe, you have to take such a medication for the rest of your life then you do just one thing. you help some poeple without conscience to gain a lot of money.
      and you don’t want to look at WHY you are how you are.
      or why your children are how they are.

      so think about yourself and your children and dont harm Children with medication that is given more than 10 years and abuses your childrens for a non clinical field trial.
      in my oppinion, this is bodily injury caused by negligence.

      but this is just my oppinion, to such medications.

      make your own oppinion

      1. Christophe says:

        You are an idiot. What are you, the village medicine man?
        Your spelling capabilities would support my theory.

  5. Tom says:

    Dear Admin of this website,

    I think you should reconcider this page as in my opinion; Police may take action and call to your house.
    What you are doing is stupid and inngorant.

    You clearly have your own extreme deep personal issues, and I hope you get help. (But for people like you, there is no medecine avavible to toixc people like yourself.
    You’re a ticking time bomb and you need deep personal help, but not many doctors will take on you’re case so please make sure you get help.

    I will say again, May I speak please?OK I talk: If I was you I would take down this website/page as it would make Police call to your house and ask you questions about this website.

    I hope you get the help you need, you’re a sick toxic person, and I feel for you. And we as people must try to think of your way of thinking, you are still a human with feelings.

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