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‘Raised on Ritalin’: A Webcomic Memoir of Attention Deficit Disorder

Creator Tyler Page is criminally neglected in the webcomics world. He first came to my attention with Nothing Better, a stunning character study of two very different college freshmen at a small religious college that doesn’t devolve into moralizing or melodrama. More recently, however, he’s turned his considerable webcomic talents on a more personal subject, one that’s sure to resonate with a lot of people who have never seen his work before. Raised on Ritalin reflects on Page’s childhood experiences with Attention Deficit Disorder and his response to his rediagnosis as an adult, wading into the history and science behind ADD and the controversial drug used to treat it and attempting to demystify ADD not only for his readers, but for himself.

Raised on Ritalin is part memoir, part factual analysis of ADD. Page puts a lot of himself down on paper, including his own medical records. These are fascinating in their own right, giving us a primary resource on what Page’s pediatricians looked for when weighing an ADD diagnosis, and how they would tweak his medication. But he also speaks frankly about his memories of that era — including both the benefits and side effects of Ritalin — and about his growing concern that he will soon have to decide how to manage his daughter’s hyperactivity.

Where Raised on Ritalin really shines, though, is in Page’s exploration of the history of ADD and Ritalin. Page starts from the very beginning, asking himself, “Is ADD even a ‘real’ thing?” and “What exactly is a mental disorder?” He seems to come to the table with few preconceived notions about ADD, even though it’s a diagnosis he lives with.

His history of Ritalin is also full of surprises, including that the drug was named for the inventor’s wife and that it was developed not for inattention but to deal with the consequences of drilling holes into children’s skulls. It will be interesting to see how Page ultimately decides to manage his own disorder, but it looks like Raised on Ritalin will better empower other sufferers to make those decisions for themselves.

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