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The Thimble Theory

A doctor’s mind is like a thimble.

Like a thimble, we can only retain a certain amount of information. Once you go over that limit, the content of the thimble overflows, leaving the thimble with nothing in it. All marketers know this, which is why promotional materials focus on two or three salient points that are repeated over and over again. In fact, these “sound bytes” are repeated so often, that we all start to believe them whether they are true or not.

Marketers of ADHD drugs like Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta, for example, have painted a rosy picture of stimulants since the 1980s, aggressively marketing these drugs to parents, teachers and clinicians. As a result, almost 5% of American children and adolescents take ADHD medication, more than any country in the world.. At a certain point, the perception that giving kids drugs is completely safe becomes the reality, whether it is true or not. Part of the problem is that while industry has millions to spend on creating and disseminating positive messages about pediatric psych drug, far less is heard about their risks.

An example of this is the risk of sudden death risk of sudden death in youth taking stimulants ha case-control study published  in American Journal of Psychiatry . This study reported  a significant association or “signal” between sudden unexplained death and the use of stimulant medication, specifically methylphenidate.

News? Not really. The risk of sudden death with stimulants has been known for years. However, I doubt you’ll ever see pharmaceutical sales reps running around publicizing these findings.

Like the proverbial tree that makes no sound when it falls in the forest, your key points must be repeated over and over again. Without constant repetition, you may find your messages falling on deaf ears.

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