“Parents throughout the country are being pressured and coerced by schools to give psychiatric drugs to their children. Teachers, school psychologists, and administrators commonly make dire threats about their inability to teach children without medicating them. They sometimes suggest that only medication can stave off a bleak future of delinquency and occupational failure. They even call child protective services to investigate parents for child neglect and they sometimes testify against parents in court. Often the schools recommend particular physicians who favor the use of stimulant drugs to control behavior.” Dr. Peter R. Breggin, Testimony before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, September 29, 2000
I. Scriptures: The Word of God and the mental health of our children.
A. God is the Defender and Savior of the helpless and needy. Ps 72:4
“He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.”
B. Jesus came to release those who have been enslaved by sin and the devil. Luke 4:18-19
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
C. Jesus desires that we bring children to Him so that He might touch them and bless them. Luke 18:15-17
“People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
D. Even the smallest act of kindness to needy children by Christ’s disciples will not go un-rewarded by Him. Matt 10:42
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
E. Leading children away from Christ into sin will result in stern a judgment from the hands of God. Matt 18:5-6
“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
F. Our Father is pleased with us when we serve the needs of those who have no one to take up their cause and answer their call for help. James 1:27-2:1
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
G. Quotes: Mental Health experts give their views on ADHD
“No one explains where this disease came from, why it didn’t exist 50 years ago. No one is able to diagnose it with objective tests. It is diagnosed by a complaining teacher or a complaining parent. People are referring to the fact that they don’t like misbehaving children, mainly boys, in the schools. The diagnosis helps tranquilize the parent, tranquilize the school system. It offers them the sense that they are doing something about the problem; that they are dealing with it in a rational, scientific way. It’s a kind of pharmacological magic.” [Thomas Szasz, Former President of the American Psychological Association and Professor at New York University; From and interview in Reason, July 2000, p. 32]
“If a parent forced a child to take alcohol, a depressant, in the mistaken belief that he was curing a “chemical imbalance” in the child’s brain, we would not hesitate to have the child removed from the home. Yet millions of children are forced to take mind-altering drugs in the equally mistaken belief that depression and other mental illnesses are biologically caused, for which there is not a shred of scientific evidence.” Keith Hoeller, editor in chief, Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, 1997.
“We are too soon old, fatigued and conquered. Surely children should be honored and guided-not subdued with drugs.” June Frost, concerned parent
“There is either a strange plague of hyperactivity in the U.S., or we’ve got a lot of folks prescribing Ritalin as a psychopharmacological nanny.” Arthur Caplan, director, Center for Bioethics, U of Pennsyvania.
III. Statistics: Alarming statistics about the rise of drug use in the treatment of our children:
In November 1999, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warned about a record six-fold increase in Ritalin production between 1990 and 1995
In 1995, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a agency of the World Health Organization, deplored that “10 to 12 percent of all boys between the ages 6 and 14 in the United States have been diagnosed as having ADD and are being treated with methylphenidate [Ritalin].”
The United States uses approximately 90% of the world’s Ritalin.
With 53 million children enrolled in school, probably more than 5 million are taking stimulant drugs.
A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Zito and her colleagues has demonstrated a three-fold increase in the prescription of stimulants to 2-4 year old toddlers.
Emergency room visits by children age 10-14 involving Ritalin intoxication have now reached the same level as those for cocaine.
IV. Described: What is Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder?
The American Psychological Association’s DSMM 1994 edition, describes ADHD as a behavior with three characteristics: [See Chart A]
1] Hyperactivity: Excessively jittery, jumpy, or overactive…”often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat” and “often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected.”
2] Impulsivity: Has trouble listening, restraining self, complying with adult wishes… “often blurts out answers before questions have been completed”
3] Inattention: Difficulty staying on required tasks, usually surrounding school work, day dreams a lot… “often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.”
V. The Problem: Generally Described:
1] Students in the class room disrupting the learning environment of the classroom by their “hyper-activity.”
2] Their lack of focus keeps them from learning as they should.
3] Their problem stems from the fact that they have a chemical imbalance.
4] Ritalin is prescribed with the theory that it will bring a chemical balance to the brain of the student.
5] The student will become more compliant; the class will be more peaceful; the student will be able to focus better; he will become a good student and a good citizen.
1] The teacher and the parent initiate the diagnosis of ADHD because they are frustrated because of a disruptive child.
2] Rather than taking responsibility for the child’s problems, the parents and the school system blame the brain of the child.
3] The student’s problem is not chemical but situational and parental.
4] There is no scientific proof of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes hyperactivity in the child.
5] Ritalin is dangerous to the child’s health and after 30 years of use there is no proof that it helps a child become a better student.
VI. The Cause ADHD:
“If a child has an attention disorder, then he has a chemical problem and needs Ritalin as much as a diabetic needs insulin.” [Pediatrician Matin Baren]
Psychiatric drugs do not work by correcting anything wrong in the brain. We can be sure of this because such drugs affect animals and humans, as well as healthy people and diagnosed patients, in exactly the same way. There are no known biochemical imbalances and no tests for them. That is why psychiatrists do not draw blood or perform spinal taps to determine the presence of a biochemical imbalance in patients. They merely observe the patients and announce the existence of the imbalances. The purpose is to take drugs.
[Peter Breggin, Your Drug May Be your Problem, p.41]
VII. The Ritalin Treatment : The problem lies within the child.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. Prov 14:12
A. The Pressure:
1. From the schools. Parents are being reported to child protection services for failing to agree to the administration of drugs to their children.
2. From the doctors. A doctor’s pamphlet: ADHD is neurologically based;” “Medications are a safe way to help many children overcome their learning problems.”
3. From the courts: The Berne-Knox-Westerlo district attorney alleged child abuse because Mr. and Mrs. Carrol wanted to take their son off of Ritalin. They are presently in court fighting to keep custody of their son and trying to remove their name from the statewide list of child abusers.
4. From the drug companies. Drug companies like Novatoris, the manufacturer of Ritalin, spend millions of dollars in advertising and, public relation campaigns, congressional lobbying and legal challenges to protect their lucrative business.
B. The Diagnosis:
According to the American Psyciatric Associations Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM-IV], a child has symptoms- which must appear before age seven- if he or she is easily distracted, often interrupts and fidgets or squirms. Sounds like your basic kid. [Kate Murphy, journalist, Business Week; 1997]
1. Behavior considered disruptive to school environment and child’s learning is the basis for the concern.
2. Doctor evaluates child on the basis of the report of the attending adults.
a. There are no medical or objective tests for ADHD.
1. The “Wender sign:” Foot tapping. [Psychiatrist Paul Wender, called the Father of the ADHD/Ritalin movement. [Breggin: Talking Back to Ritalin, p. 145]
2. The jiggle graph-actigraph: [Breggin: Talking Back to Ritalin, p. 144]
b. The Doctor often spends less than fifteen minutes in evaluation.
c. The child would rarely exhibit the behavior patterns that define ADHD in an office visit.
3. The decision to administer the drug is done so with little or no first hand knowledge of the effectiveness or the dangers of the medication by the attending physician. [Reports on the effectiveness of the drug is often motivated not by pure science but by monetary gains, political pressures and personal ambition.]
C. The Procedure: The Dispensing of Stimulants: Ritalin, Dexadrine and DextroStat, Adderall, Desoxyn and Gradumet, and Cyclert.
1. Ritalin causes changes in the neurotransmitter system of the brain. [They are the chemical messengers between brain cells or neurons. They are released by one brain cell usually to cause an adjacent cell to fire. Impulses then are carried along the neurological wiring of the brain. Nerve “A” releases a chemical into the space [synapse: a soup of chemicals agents that control nerve function.] between it self and nerve “B”. If the neurotransmitter attaches itself to its receptor it contributes to that nerve’s tendency to fire. [Each cell has 10,000 or more connections with other cells. There are several hundred billion cells, adding up to trillions of synapses.]
2. The presence of stimulants in the brain produce an increased supply of three key neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, into the synapse.
3. The stimulants increase the activity of the nerves in two ways: 1] They increase the amount of the neurotransmitter causing more firing of the receptor; 2] They cause the neurotransmitter to remain longer in the space. The result is an over stimulation of the neurotransmitter system.
4. The brain responds to the intrusion of the chemicals. The Stimulants say, “Go!” The Brain will say, “Stop!” 1] Nerve “A” receives signals to shut down; 2] Nerve “B” tries to blunt the over stimulation by destroying its own receptors for the neurotransmitter [“Down regulation”].
5. The “therapeutic” effect of the Ritalin happens as certain areas of the brain are altered from their normal functioning causing emotional blocking, robotic like behavior.
6. Instead of correcting a chemical imbalance, Ritalin creates a chemical imbalance.
VIII. The Dangers of Ritalin: [See Table I]
The Failure of the FDA to guarantee the safety of approved drugs: 1976-1985- 50% of drugs approved had “serious” undetected adverse effects. [Examples: Seldane; Ex-Lax; Redux] In just a few years, fifty thousand people died taking drugs designed to prevent cardiac arrest. The drugs themselves caused the deaths. [Thomas J. Moore, Deadly Medicine, 1995]
A. Ritalin FDA approved label:
1. “Warning:” 1] “Ritalin should not be used in children under six years of age, since safety and efficacy for this age group have not been established.” 2] “Sufficient data on safety and efficacy of long term use of Ritalin in children are not yet available.”
2. “Precaution:” Long term effects of Ritalin in children have not been well established.” [Despite more than thirty years of effort and thousands of studies, advocates of Ritalin have not been able to demonstrate the safety of the efficacy of Ritalin beyond a few weeks.]
3. Ritalin and amphetamines produce the very symptoms there are supposed to control: Hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.
4. Nurses are warned regarding Ritalin toxicity: “Behavioral clues include anxiety, agitation, restlessness, insomnia, inability to concentrate, and personality changes…The person will become easily distracted, unable to concentrate. Often he’ll complain of feeling jittery or on the edge. [Burgess, K, Nursing, July 1985, pp 50-56]
B. Constricted blood flow to the brain [Similar to cocaine]. [A loss of 23-30%]
C. Brain Atrophy: Henry A. Nasrallah  50% of 24 young adults treated with stimulants suffered from brain shrinkage.
D. The “Zombie Effect:” Suppression of spontaneous behavior and mental vitality, leading to exaggerated forms of conformity and compliance.
E. Cancer: Cancer tumors found in laboratory animals caused the FDA to issue a warning and send 100,000 “Dear Doctor” letters.
F. Depression: “Ritalin made me withdrawn. Ritalin made me lifeless. My mother noticed a boy who was not her son anymore. She took me off after two weeks.” A. G.
G. Multiple Drug Involvement: The blanket bombing of the brain causes side affects that must be dealt with by the administration of other medication.
H. Chemical dependence: The use of Ritalin increasing the possibility of further drug addictions. “Out of 10 People I know, maybe one has seen of tried cocaine but nine of them have done Ritalin.” High school student, Bethesda Maryland.
I. Growth impediment: Ritalin disrupts the normal growth hormone production in the body.
J. Decreased Social interaction: “time spent alone” “decreasing time spent on the play ground,” “somber,” “quiet,” and “still.” [James Swanson, in a 1992 study of “cognative toxicity”; Quoted in Talking Back To Ritalin.
K. Tics and dyskenesia: Paul Lipkin  found that of 122 children treated for ADHD, 9% developed tics or dyskenesia
L. Mood swings: The drug may appear to give a quieting affect in the day but cause increased activity or insomnia at night time.
IX. The Success of Ritalin: [See Table II]
A. Improvement of behavior in the class room does not mean improvement in learning. Herbert Rie: Ohio State University- 28 children in 12 week double blind study found no objective evidence of improvement from Ritalin on any of the tests of learning performance. Those who were given Ritalin were distinctly, “more bland or flat emotionally…responded less, exhibited little or no initiative and spontaneity, offered no curiosity, surprise, or pleasure, and seemed devoid of humor…more manageable in the environment, but less interested in it.” [Quoted in Talking Back To Ritalin, pp 57-58]
B. Ritalin affects the parts of the brain that affects spontaneity, creativeness, problem solving and higher levels of thinking.
C. Ritalin stimulates part of the brain that lead to stereotypical behaviors that are compulsive, inflexible, and narrowly focused, which give rise to the idea that they are more focused in their studies.
D. Drug induced dysfunction of dopamine function in the frontal lobes and the basal ganglia dampen will power, initiative, and spontaneity, thus making the child compliant.
E. The administration of the drug stigmatizes the child not only with his peers but within himself.
F. Children come to the conclusion that they are not really responsible for their behavior but are dependent upon a magic pill that makes them good.
G. The parents and teachers may be relieved but the child is denied the personal attention that he needs.
H. Use of Ritalin can affect future career opportunities. [The armed forces have restrictions upon anyone who has been prescribed Ritalin beyond their 13th birthday.]
X. The Alternatives To Ritalin:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30
A. Every child should be treated as a personal gift from God with individual and unique gifts and challenges.
B. Every child needs personal attention and love to help them learn how to overcome their problems and mature.
C. The parent and the teacher and the school system should first judge and take responsibility for their own failures in providing the unique learner with an environment for growth.
D. Discipline in an environment of love and consistency must be maintained for every child.
E. Parents and teachers should work together to seek ways to help the hyperactive child be successful in learning and growing.
F. Quick fixes for ongoing problems in the child unrealistic and can be extremely dangerous to his well being.
G. Prayer and Biblical guidelines are the foundation for healthy and successful living.
H. Jesus Christ loves all children and will bless our ministry of faith and love by touching the heart of the child through your service.
…in facing the difficulties of parenting and teaching, we must not in our frustration falsely blame the brains of children in order to exonerate ourselves of responsibility. Instead, we must redouble our efforts to become the kind of parents and teachers that our children need, and we must use our influence to improve family life and school life in America. By contrast, when we tell a child that the child has ADHD, a biochemical imbalance, cross-wired in his/her brain, a genetic defect, or some other fabricated biological dysfunction, we saddle that child with an identity that will burden that individual for the rest of his/her life. Peter Breggin: Talking Back to Ritalin
It may be a painful admission to recognize that one has spent 10-20 years studying something that doesn’t exist, but when considering the accumulated amount of human suffering, the substitution of medication for otherwise remedial behavior problems, then it is time to stop and think. [McGuiness: The Limits of Biological treatments for Psychological Distress. 1989]
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
A. Holding fast to Jesus and His truth is the way to find freedom and joy in this life.
B. Worldly wisdom will ultimately lead to disappointment and death.
C. Psychological theory, medical diagnosis, and scientific explanations are always to be judged by God’s unchanging Word.
D. Science and medicine are found in the environment of men, thus, they are subject to error, bias, and confusion.
E. When institutional decisions collide with spiritual conviction prayerful and careful actions should be taken with humility and gentleness.
F. Every time you use a drug to change a behavior you are becoming a guinea pig in a very dangerous and unproven experiment.
G. Children must be loved and cared for as little ones Jesus loved and gave his life for.
Breggin, P. (1998). Talking Back to Ritalin. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press.
Breggin, P. (1999). “Psychostimulants in the treatment of children diagnosed with ADHD: Risks and mechanism of action.” International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine, 12, 3-35
Breggin, P. (2000). Reclaiming Our Children. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books.
Breggin, P. and Cohen, D. (1999). Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books.
Breggin, P. Toxic Psychiatry. New York, St. Martins Press.
Breggin, P. Your Drug May BeYour Problem. Reading, Massachusetts
Cherland, E. and Fitzpatrick, R. (1999, October). “Psychotic side effects of Psychostimulants: A 5-year review.” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 44, 811-813.
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