“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  (Breggin, 1998, p. 56)
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” [Psalm 139:13-14]
We are now witnessing a tragedy of immense proportions. 4-5 million of our precious children are being drugged with dangerous stimulants based upon an unproven theory. (Breggin, 1998, 2) These challenging children have been labeled ADHD and told that their uniqueness is caused by a chemical imbalance. Parents, teachers and doctors have been convinced by one of the world’s most successful public relations campaign of all time, that the “abnormal” behavior of these little ones is caused by a “broken brain.” Consequently, these little ones are growing up with drug-intoxicated brains.
Bible-believing Christians should suspect that something is terribly wrong. Every person is created by God. We are not machines with broken parts. We are wonderful works of God, designed to face and overcome the problems of life with the resources he has generously made available to every one of his creatures. People are made unique, and the formal structures man has created might not leave room for giftedness. Turning to drugs may alter behavior, may make children more manageable, may make them more “normal,” but they will never shape mature, successful and hope-driven persons. Psychiatrist Peter Breggin sums up the crisis like this: “Of all the harmful actions of modern psychiatry, the mass diagnosing and drugging of children is the most appalling with the most serious consequences for the future of individual lives and for society.”
I write as a committed Christian. By that I mean that my belief in God, my knowledge of Scripture, and my passion to imitate Christ demands that I speak for those who have no voice and fight for those who have no power. Jesus loved children and welcomed them into his arms. [Matthew 19:14-15] He came to set the oppressed free. [Luke 4:20] So, as a believer of truth, as an agent of love, as a defender of the helpless and as a follower of Jesus, I am called and committed to take up this fight against this gross attack against our little ones.
Can’t we trust science?
Most of us who were raised in the 20th century were encouraged to place an unqualified trust in science. “Pure” science gave us the potential to solve all of the problems of life. It was objective and factual. A phenomena would be observed by a sincere seeker of truth. A hypothesis would be made and tested by careful research over weeks and months of repeated trials. Based upon the results of this thorough scientific process, truth would be uncovered, implications would be drawn out, applications would be sorted out, and based upon this “hard” science, life would be lived out.
Those of us who are alive today have good reason to question that once strong belief in “pure” science. (Breggin, 1998, p.11) We have discovered that there are no unbiased scientists. They all begin with diverse assumptions and personal motives. Both the atheistic evolutionist and the theistic creationist begin with foundational commitments. All of the research, observations and arguments that follow are designed, and sometimes manipulated to validate their original position. Too often we have discovered that which was once called “fact” and “safe” was later was found to be untrue and harmful.
Unfortunately, as we shall see, there are other “ethically-challenged” forces at work. Financial gain and political agendas have sullied and muddied the reputation of modern day science. This is especially true in the mental health world, where the pharmaceutical complex has entered into a mutually benefitting alliance with the psychiatric profession. This “unholy” partnership has led to some very questionable and dangerous developments. The diagnosis of ADHD as a disease and its drug-mandated therapy is one of the worst.
How does a behavior become a disease?
“There are thousands of American children who have been affected by the rush to Ritalin. The drug’s use to treat ADD has become so rampant that at the slightest sign of trouble- a child keeps running back and forth between the drinking fountain, has an unruly week pushing kids on the playground, plays drum on his desk with pencils- parents are circled by the school’s teachers, psychologist and principal- all pushing Ritalin.” – Jeannie Russell, GoodHousekeeping, 1978 (Breggin, 1998, p. 2)
Ritalin is a very dangerous drug. It affects the body in similar ways to cocaine. (Breggin, 1998, p. 67) Would parents so readily agree to have their children put on Ritalin if they knew that? But, they don’t. They are not told that! If parents are going to submit their children to this dangerous practice, as guardians of their children’s well being, they owe it to themselves and their precious ones to know the facts. Hopefully this paper will help.
Attention Deficit Disorder began as a construct in one person’s mind. Certain behaviors were identified and then were later blamed upon some unknown disease within the chemical make-up of the ADD victim. It is crucial to note that this discovery was not demanded because of the results of any objective or physical test. It began not as pure science but as pure speculation. For decades, the proponents of this form of therapy have tried to prove the existence of such a disease but they have failed. Let me make this fact clear: There is not a single scientific test that has proved that ADHD has a genetic or biochemical origin. (Breggin, 1999, p. 35)
The American Psychiatry Association’s DSM [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] is the bible of the mental health world. If a behavior is put into the DSM, it is considered an official “disease.” How a behavior becomes a disease may not happen like we might expect. A mental disorder is not included because scientific discovery demands that it be included, but because a majority of the members on a committee vote to make it so. And, in the process of time, the votes change. Some disorders drop out of the manual. Homosexuality was once considered an impairment in need of counseling by the professionals. But, it has been removed and is no longer considered a disease. Interesting enough, its removal happened “coincidentally” at a time when the society’s view changed toward this lifestyle. In other words, it was a subjective conclusion made not because of a new scientific discovery but because political winds were blowing in another direction. These “scientists” were pressured into changing their “scientific” findings.
In the 1968 version of the DSM II, a set of behaviors was described to be a “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood adolescence.” (Breggin, 1998, p. 142) It went on to explain that, “This disorder is characterized by overactivity, restlessness, distractibility, and short attention span, especially in young children; the behavior usually diminishes in adolescence.” No cause was mentioned. They had none. In the 1980 addition of the manual, DSM III, the label Attention Deficit Disorder made its appearance. In the 1984 revision, ADD was changed to Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).
In the process of time, the DSM came to identify three characteristics that characterize the symptoms of those who are suffering from ADHD. They are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
Inattention: Fails to give close attention to details; makes careless mistakes; has difficulty sustaining attention; does not seem to listen when spoken to directly; doesn’t follow through with directions, and has trouble finishing assignments; has trouble organizing; is reluctant to begin tasks that demand sustained mental effort; often loses things and is forgetful in daily tasks.
Hyperactivity: Often fidgets with hands and feet; often leaves his seat in classrooms; often runs about and climbs excessively in inappropriate situations; fails to play quietly; often is on the go and seems “driven;” and talks excessively.
Impulsivity: Blurts out answers without being called upon; often has trouble waiting his/her turn; often interrupts or intrudes into other’s conversation. (Burge, 2012, pp. 6-8)
Let me make several observation here. First, the environment where these behaviors are most likely be noted is in a formal setting, like a classroom. Second, the behaviors described seem to be the normal actions of an undisciplined student, not a sick brain. Third, whatever the cause of the children’s “abnormal” behavior, a therapy including a drug like Ritalin that is very dangerous and life altering, is not warranted. Fourth, the label of ADHD is a subjective, arbitrarily pronouncement that is made without any blood testing or any other physical tests.
Let me provide one illustration of just how unscientific the process of diagnosis can be. Here is how one “expert” counseled educators on how to discover the ADHD students within their classrooms:
“Attention Deficit Disorder is a hidden disability. No physical marker exists to identify its presence, yet ADD is not very hard to spot. Just look with your eyes and listen with your ears when you walk through places where children are-particularly those places where children are expected to behave in a quiet, orderly, and productive fashion. In such places, children with ADD will identify themselves quite readily. They will be doing or not doing something which frequently results in their receiving a barrage of comments and criticisms such as “Why don’t you ever listen?” “Think before you act.” ‘ Pay attention.” (Breggin, 1998, p. 234-235)
Take note of the subjective nature of that diagnostic process. No objective diagnostic criteria for ADHD is listed. There are no physical symptoms, no neurological signs and no blood tests. William Carey, professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania gives reasons for the lack of scientific testing. According to Carey, the actions described are not a disorder but “appears to be a set of normal behavioral variations.” (Breggin, 2001, p. 263) The “ADHD child” may be different, but difference does not mean disease.
What is the ADHD theory?
The theory behind stimulant therapy is based upon an unproven belief that ADHD is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This belief focuses upon the neurotransmitters that carry messages between brain cells [neurons]. In between the nerve cells is a space called a synapses. The neurotransmitters fill this space and enable the impulse released by one neuron to cause an adjacent neuron to fire. The problem occurs, according to this theory, when a brain has an overabundance of neurotransmitters. This chemical imbalance is believed to be the reason for the ADHD disorder. Ritalin is believed to correct this chemical imbalance.
The problem with this hypothesis is that we have no techniques for measuring the actual levels of neurotransmitters. In fact, there is no objective test that can trace psychological problems to chemical imbalances. And, although we cannot be certain if a person has a chemical imbalance before drug therapy, we can be certain that the brain will be chemically imbalanced after the therapy.
Psychiatrist and drug therapy critic, Peter Breggin, describes how a stimulant like Ritalin affects the Brain:
“The research in no way bolsters the idea that psychiatric drugs correct imbalances. Rather, it shows that psychiatric drugs create imbalances. In modern psychiatric treatment, we take the single most complicated known creation in the universe – the human brain- and pour drugs into it in the hope of “improving” its function when in reality we are disrupting its function.” (Breggin, 1999, p. 7)
Think about this. The human brain is the most complicated organ in the universe. We know more about the working of the universe than we do of the brain. It has more neurons than there are stars in the sky. Billions! Each nerve may have 10,000 or more connections to other brain cells, creating a network with trillions of interconnections. Besides the hundreds of chemical messengers [neurotransmitters], there are hormones, proteins, tiny ions such as sodium and potassium, and other substances. (Breggin, 1999, p. 5) We simply cannot predict with any certainty how a drug will impact the complex operations of the brain. Each child we inject with these drugs becomes a laboratory guinea pig.
What are the dangers?
April 14, 1995, some teens were crushing and snorting Ritalin and drinking beer. Then, 19 year old Lucas Lawson, collapsed with cardiac arrest. Reporter Diane Struzzi  of the Roanoke Times commented on this tragedy:
“His friends say Lawson had no idea that the abuse of Ritalin could be fatal. Why should he, they asked? The use of it has become so common that teens have seen their peers snort up during class or in the bathroom. Some refer to it as Vitamin-R the wonder drug that can keep you up, make you study longer and party harder. Others have been known to take it in the belief it will increase their SAT scores.” (Breggin, 1998, p. 67)
This incident reveals one of the most startling aspects of this movement. The parents and their children are not told the devastating side-effects these drugs can inflict upon the body. Parents are most likely only told that it is a rather safe procedure with only an upside of a better academic performance by their children. And, why shouldn’t they believe this? Their school officials recommend it and their family doctor readily confirms the “disease” and prescribes the Ritalin.
Here is what the parents are not told: Ritalin has the same effects on the brain and the body as cocaine! What loving parent would submit their baby to cocaine therapy for the sake of improved behavior or better grades in the classroom? The Drug Enforcement Agency has placed Ritalin in its Schedule II category along with opium, morphine, and barbiturates. Controlled studies have shown that experienced users are not able to distinguish the effects of Ritalin from cocaine. (Breggin, 2001, 1459)
After one of my seminars in which I addressed the dangers of drug therapy, a young mother came forward to talk to me. She explained that she was on medication, and her parents insisted that she stay on them even though they made her miserable. She went on to complain that her parents demanded that she stay on the drug even though it was the same “speed” that caused her parents to worry when she used it on the streets.
She asked if I could help her get off the drug. I suggested that she find a doctor who was against this misuse of drugs to walk her through the process. She said, “So, you can’t help me.” I explained that I was leaving and she needed counseling to go along with her withdrawal, and I could not do it. She went away deeply disappointed. The next day I was confronted by an official of the sponsoring group for daring to suggest that this young lady did not need to be on this drug. I have gotten used to such anger.
A Toxic Drug
“We have become the only country in the world where children are prescribed such a vast quantity of stimulants that share virtually the same properties as cocaine.” -Gene Haislip, Drug Enforcement Administration official (Breggin, 1998, p. 285)
Many of us assume that when the Food and Drug Administration allows a drug to go on the market, it is safe. That is not true. The FDA put this admission into one of their presentations: “When a drug goes to market, we know everything about its safety. Wrong!” (Breggin, 1998, p. 36) The fact of the matter is that the trials are often too short in duration, have too small of a patient grouping and are too influenced by the drug companies financial interest. As evidence of this, fifty-percent of the drugs released for public consumption between 1976 to 1985 had serious adverse side effects that were undetected in the trials. (Breggin, 1998, p. 36 )
What we do know is that drugs do not fix an impaired brain. They affect a healthy brain and a diagnosed ADHD brain in the same way. Every child given Ritalin, whether diagnosed ADHD or not, will suffer from multiple drug-induced biochemical imbalances.
Some of the physical side effects that have been linked with drug therapy are: sleeplessness, lethargy, increased sweating, decreased appetite, robotic behavior, tics, heart disorders, stunting of growth, brain atrophy, hair loss, high blood pressure, tachycardia, dizziness, narrowing of blood vessels, and cancer.
The tragic stories of drug therapies are not hard to find. On March 21, 2000, 14 year-old Matthew Smith collapsed while skateboarding and died shortly after. The medical examiner of Oakland County, Pontiac, Michigan, performed the autopsy. He found fibrosis and narrowing of the vessels of the heart and attributed the child’s death to heart disease caused by ten years of exposure to Ritalin. (Breggin, 2001, 429) These are real dangers that all parents need, to seriously consider before subjecting their child to such risk.
Some of the emotional side effects are: sadness, depression, anxiety, irritability, suicidal feeling, excitability, euphoria, paranoia, and psychosis.
The personal side effects are just as dangerous. A child that is told that his extra energy is caused by a disease in his brain is relieved of personal responsibility for his actions. For the rest of his life he will be defined as an ADHD person. When he feels bad or does badly he can always blame it on the brain. He will be robbed of the joys of facing problems in life and overcoming them with the creative spirit and the unique gifts that are his by creation. A steel ceiling will be put over his dreams either through his concept of himself of others, who see his ADHD as a liability.
One of the important facts that is not well-known is that these drugs often cause the very things they are supposed to correct. To verify the accuracy of that assertion one needs only to read the warnings that are mandated with every prescription. When an intensification of the noted symptoms does happen, this is often misinterpreted as the disorder getting worse and greater doses of the drug are prescribed. When this fails to stop the deterioration, stronger medications may be administered.
It is not uncommon for a patient to be subjected to multiple drugs. The scenario may follow this tragic pattern:
“When the stimulant causes insomnia, a sedating drug like Klonopin or clonidine is added at night. When the drug combination causes the child to become depressed, an antidepressant like Prozac or Paxil are added. When the three drugs impair the child’s emotional stability making him aggressive and unpredictable for the first time, the parents are told that their child’s “bipolar” or “manic depressive” disorder has “emerged.” Now lithium and Depakote are added as a mood stabilizer. When the medically negligent over-dosing with four drugs leads to bizarre behavior, the child is put on an “anti-psychotic” like Risperdal or Zyprexa. -Peter Breggin (Breggin, 1999, p. 169)
A Gateway Drug:
“Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant with a high potential for abuse and diversion for illegal purposes. The Drug Enforcement Administration must determine the amount needed for legitimate medical and scientific need while ensuring that oversupply does not occur. These limits or quotas are set up to prevent the diversion of the drug for illegal purposes.” -Drug Enforcement Administration (Breggin, 2001, p. 3292)
Ritalin is called a Gateway Drug. In other words, its use opens the way for the abuse of other kinds of drugs. Nadine Lambert, PhD, professor of Cognition and Development and Director of the school of Psychology, Stanford, reported that childhood stimulants increased a “lifetime use of cocaine and stimulants”- and “is significantly and pervasively implicated in the uptake of … daily smoking in adulthood, in cocaine dependence, and in life time use of cocaine and stimulants.” (Breggin, 2001, p. 243)
On the streets Ritalin is called “speed.” It is a shocking truth that more children are taking Ritalin and amphetamines from the hands of doctors than ever received them from illegal pushers. It is now the fourth most abused drug after marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Students who sell their prescriptions or give them away because they don’t like them are contributing to the rise in the abuse of Ritalin. One high school student in Bethesda, Maryland, put it like this, “Out of 10 people I know, maybe one has seen or tried cocaine, but nine of them have done Ritalin.” (Breggin, 1998, p. 94) We are changing the words of the slogan from “just say no” to “just say yes.”
The loss of the sparkle.
The effects of the drugs toxicity suppress spontaneous activity, including curiosity, socialization, and play. It promotes a “robotic” overly focused behavior that is often repetitive and meaningless. The child may become more manageable and acceptable to the authorities, but at what cost to the child? Here is the testimony of one young victim: “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.” (Breggin, 2001, 1582) In one study it was found that fifty percent of all children who were prescribed the drug had their therapy stopped because of the negative side effects.
Why is the theory so generally accepted?
“Teachers want compliant, well-behaved children. Parents eager to see children succeed, take them to mental health professionals who are quick to diagnose ADHD and seek drug treatment. Under an insurance system that favors drugs over therapy, ADHD is an easy label to apply to undesired behavior; drugs are a quick fix…” -Sharon Collins- pediatrician (Breggin, 1998, p. 140)
There are four key groups that are instrumental in the promotion and the institutionalizing of the ADHD/Ritalin drug therapy: 1] The pharmaceutical complex [“Big Pharma”]; 2] Mental Health Professionals [psychiatrists, pediatricians and general practitioners]; 3] School systems [teachers, counselors and principals]; 4] and parents.
“Big Pharma”- The Pharmaceutical Complex
Medicalization is the process by which non-medical issues become transformed into medical problems in terms of illnesses and disorders. The radical step to treat all psychological, emotional and spiritual problems as psychiatric disorders made the pharmaceutical complex the most successful American industry at the close of the twentieth century. Drug conglomerates like Novartis, parent company of Ciba-Geigy, the producer of Ritalin, have made billions of dollars promoting the theory that ADHD is a brain disease rather than a behavioral or environmental problem.
The profit explosion happened as a result of two significant developments. First, expensive medications were developed to meet the ever growing market of clients diagnosed with ADHD. Second, the Food and Drug Administration allowed the pharmaceutical industry to advertise directly to the consumers. In 1999, the drug companies spent $791 million in advertising, but by 2006 it increased that to $4.8 billion. Their campaign strategy was simple: to convince psychiatrists, pediatricians, family practitioners, parents and teachers that HDHD was under recognized and under- treated. Their campaign was so successful that HDHD became fashionable and sales took off from $304 million in 1994; to $658 million in 1999; to 2.11 billion by 2003. (Burge, 2012, xii)
Critics have pointed out that the potential profit motive in this lucrative market is behind the pharmaceutical complex’s decision to adopt strategies and tactics that are ethically- challenged. Putting its own economic interest above the welfare of the “consumers,” it has sacrificed its integrity on the altars of profit and pride. The drug companies design the tests, pay for the researchers, control the trials, interpret the findings, and determine what details of the research are to be released to the public. All the while they staunchly resist calls for transparency. Consequently, their public advertisements should be treated with great skepticism. Someone has said, “Putting on a white coat, especially when it is stuffed with money, doesn’t make a reliable scientist.” The unethical actions of “Big Pharma” have shown this to be true.
When the drug companies control all aspects of the trials, objectivity is lost. In fact, it is common knowledge that companies publish data favorable to their product while suppressing unfavorable data. In the case of the diabetes drug Rezulin, the Los Angeles Times reported that the manufacturer hid data showing that the drug could cause liver failure. The drug was withdrawn after being the suspected cause of 391 deaths. (Breggin, 2001, 939)
Another example is the case of Dr. James O. Kahn, not long ago published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. His study concluded that a vaccine for AIDS simply didn’t help patients. The corporate funder of that study refused to give Dr. Kahn (the principal investigator) all the data. It then tried to block publication of the research. When the study was finally published, the corporation initiated a $7 million legal action against Dr. Kahn and his employer, the University of California at San Francisco.
The pharmaceutical complex is also not hesitant to dip into its vast resources of money to gain allies to its cause. It regularly finances many drug advocacy groups like the American Psychiatry Association, CHADD and NAMI, along with giving generous donations to the universities that conduct its research projects. The success of such schmoozing is not surprising. In a 1998 report found in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was reported that 96% of medical journals whose research was favorable to certain cardiac drugs had financial ties with the drug’s manufacturers. Only 37% of those who had no financial ties gave a positive review.
A recent study of medical research has estimated that only half of all clinical trials are published in full, and that positive results were twice as likely to be published as negative ones. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/medical-research) A movement to bring transparency to the clinical trial process was met by covert actions by some drug companies. They secretly enlisted several patient advocacy groups, many who receive funding from the drug companies, to speak out against this reform. Unfortunately, Big Pharma does not want transparency. It wants currency. Too much money is at stake to let consumers make decisions based upon all of the evidence.
Perhaps I have belabored the point, but I believe parents and leaders must become informed about the vast and powerful forces that are involved in this attempt to drug our children. Financed by drug companies, spread by the media, encouraged by organized psychiatry, easily prescribed by the doctors, and pressured by indoctrinated teachers, parents must be given a place to stand. Targeted consumers need to know that psychiatric drugs are industrial products subject to all the hype, misinformation, and media spin techniques that characterize the marketing of any other multi-billion dollar project. It is not “pure science.”
Psychiatrists and Physicians.
“Psychiatrist see mental disorders or potential signs of mental disorder in every patient. It is a reward system. He must find a diagnosis to be paid. It is a reward system. Find a diagnosis and get paid.” (Barge, 2012, p 2)
The American Psychiatry Association is one of the most powerful political forces in the nation. In the 1980’s, it entered into an economic and political partnership with drug companies. The pharmaceutical complex funds professorships, lecture series, research projects, and gives large grants to co-operating universities. Former secretary of the APA, George Pollack, made this candid confession: “In fact, the field of psychiatry has become an economically-driven profession.” (Breggin, 1998, p. 215)
Psychiatrists are competing with psychologists and family counselors for clients. The movement from talk therapy to a medicalized form of therapy was an open door for psychiatrists. If suffering is rooted in genetics and biology, requiring drugs and other medical interventions, they control the market.
Talk therapy is out. Drug therapy is in. Jay Haley, Stanford University therapist put it like this: “Some psychiatrists now don’t even seem able to talk to people- they only listen to decide which medications to prescribe. It’s a shame.” (Overcoming ADHD, 2012, p. 27) Prescribing drugs doesn’t take as much time or energy. Insurance companies are more than willing to pay for drugs rather than the more expensive talk therapy. So, psychiatrists have become willing promoters and defenders of Big Pharma’s rush to drug our children with toxic chemicals.
The family doctor generally participates in the process by readily prescribing the psychotropic drugs. However, most doctors are wholly ignorant of the danger these drugs pose to their young patients. Their information is most likely provided by the drug companies promotional materials or their sales rep. They don’t have the time to do the research necessary to get by the pharmaceutical hype.
However, these physicians are not without some blame. A survey of doctors found that 53% spent an hour or more in making the initial diagnosis. That means that almost 50% spent less than an hour on making this crucial decision. (Breggin, 2001, 1765) I had the occasion to ask a young doctor friend why the members of his profession were so ready to dispense drugs. He answered, “Do you want to know the truth?” I said, “Yes.” He explained, “We simply do not have the time to deal with our patients problems.”
The School System.
It is the school system that provides the major impetus for the ADHD diagnosis. The formal classroom demands conformity. A student who fidgets, who speaks out of turn, or who is resistant to direct commands becomes a prime candidate for the ADHD diagnosis. They are disruptive to the classroom setting and a source of irritation to the dedicated educator. How to meet the needs of the more demanding student without taking away from the education of the rest of the class is a great challenge.
So, discovering that these children have a disease like ADHD can offer great relief to over-worked and troubled instructors. And, Big Pharma makes sure that the educators are well aware of both the ADHD diagnosis and the proposed stimulant cure. A survey of one large east coast school system found that 85% of the teachers had attended a seminar promoting the ADHD diagnosis and stimulant solution. (Breggin, 1998, p. 249) In another survey, 96% of 147 teachers claimed that they could recognize an ADHD student. (Breggin, 1998, p. 249)
Unfortunately, a child who daydreams in class, squirms in his seat and fails to get good grades, is in danger of being targeted for a life-time of drug dependency. The fault is not placed on poor parenting, a rigid school system or a troubled environment. It is in the child. But, does it not seem reckless and irresponsible to prescribe such strong psychotropic drugs to children for an illness that cannot be proven, particularly if the intent of the prescription is only to improve performance in school? (Burge, 2012, p. 5)
It is the parents who have the greatest responsibility and who receive the greatest pressure to put their children on Ritalin. It usually begins with a call from the teacher who suggests that the child gives evidence of being ADHD. A plan is proposed to take the child through a series of test and evaluation to establish the certainty of a disorder.
If the school decides a drug intervention is needed, a meeting with the parents is scheduled. When the parents come in, they are ushered into a conference room where a team made up of the teacher, school counselor or psychologist and principal are assembled. All agree it is in the best interest of the student to go on the drug program. The parents are probably relieved to hear that the Department of Education has declared that “scientists have ruled out most of the factors controlled by parents.”
The parents are then assured that their child will be involved in a safe, common therapy that will help their child work better in the classroom and one that will increase his/her academic achievement. Wanting what is best for their child, frustrated that their child is so hard to work with and perhaps relieved that the problem is not their fault, they are likely to give in to the pressure. The fault lies within the chemistry of the child. The parents and the school system are absolved of any responsibility. A simple pill will now solve the problem. If the parent should resist, child protection agencies and legal entities may be called in.
The child is a helpless victim. Distorted views of life and unrealistic expectations by the authorities put the unique child at risk. The mental health world, seeking to validate its authority, has stolen the life and joy out of being a kid. Listen to one experts description of what I would call the wonderful world of childhood. He wrote that research has shown that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder have “an attentional bias toward novelty and stimulation.” Dr. Breggin reacts to this attack on childhood and writes, “‘An attentional bias toward novelty and stimulation’- it is a prime example of pseudoscientific phraseology- how to make something potentially wonderful into something ugly and threatening by a mere twist of language.” [Breggin, 1998, p. 148)
No asks how they feel on the drug. The subjective experience of the child is ignored. They never like the medication. It always makes them feel worse.
How effective are the drugs?
“And the claim that these chemically abused children pay more attention to the teacher and learn better remains undocumented, the teachers reports that they are less restless and more docile hardly constituting evidence of learning. Who wouldn’t be docile if spaced out on speed or crashed from sleepless nights from speed? And, as for the unavailability of alternative interventions, well, just because physicians are not trained to treat behavior is no reason for them to assume that others don’t.” -David Kearsey, Please Understand Me, 
The administration of Ritalin to a child may cause him/her to sit down and shut up. It may cause him/her to focus upon the boring to the exclusion of all else. Teachers may even give testimony of a drastic improvement in the child’s academic performance, satisfied that the drug has worked. However, even though the child may now fit within the system and help bring order to the classroom, there is no evidence that Ritalin or any other stimulant improves a child’s ability to learn. (Breggin, 2001, 785)
In fact, since the 1970’s, claims that Ritalin enabled academic improvement have been called into question. In 1976, Rie and his team of investigators made it clear that Ritalin interferes with rather than improves learning. They reported that while the meds may suppress “disapproved behaviors that can interfere with learning,” the researchers also concluded that the drug suppresses “desirable behaviors that facilitate it.” And, even when the child’s behavior is improved, they found no improvement in academic achievement. In fact, they found that teachers confused behavioral changes with improvements in learning. (Breggin, 1998, p. 57 )
Researcher Mark A. Dogget, Ph.D., of the School of Education, Colorado State University, did a “meta-analysis of 74 studies” that were designed to evaluate the impact of stimulant medication on learning. He concluded that an analysis of all of the studies showed that Ritalin “had little impact on educational outcomes.” (Overcoming ADHD, 2012, p. 30) L. Alan Sroufe of the New York times added this observation: “To date, no study has found any long-term benefit of attention-deficit medication on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems, the very things we would most want to improve.” (New York Times, January 28, 2012)
What teachers and the parents are observing in the drugged child is not the healing of a chemical imbalance, but the hurting of a healthy brain. The “therapeutic affect” is actually the result of a toxicity in the brain caused by the drug. Their desire to make the child compliant and validate their diagnosis has duped both teacher and parent to declare significant improvement even when unknown to them, the child was not given Ritalin but a placebo.
That observation led John McGinnes of the Wall Street Journal to comment:
“That the line between cure and disease should be blurry is no surprise, since there is no objective test for ADD and ADHD. In fact, despite countless attempts, no one has ever demonstrated that either disorder exists. But harried teachers and counselors have learned to recommend an ADD diagnosis to parents in order to get their more rambunctious students on Ritalin, an easy way to quiet them down.” (John McGinnes, “Attention Deficit Disaster,” Wall Street Journal, September 18, 1997) (Breggin, 1998, p. 161)
The turning to drugs not only harms the child, it robs professionals and teachers of the deep satisfaction that comes from understanding the uniqueness of the child and his/her needs and then helping him/her to find satisfaction and joy in disciplined living. Neither parenting nor teaching is easy. But our love for our children and our responsibility to raise them up for their well being and the good of society, demands that we resist quick and easy answers, especially when those solutions ignore the uniqueness of our students.
Leon Eisenberg of the Boston Globe pricks our conscience with this powerful indictment: “The whole trend toward giving pills to children as a solution to everything, particularly in the absence of evidence that they work, is fundamentally unethical. Its driven by the convenience of the doctor, the profitability of the drug company, and the notion that there is nothing more meaningful to life than biochemistry.” (Breggin, 2001, 275)
What should be the treatment?
“To prescribe such strong psychotropic drugs to children for an illness that cannot be proven seems impossible, particularly if the intent of the prescription is only to improve performance in school.’ (Burge, 2003, p. 5)
The purpose of schools is to educate, not medicate. Too many educators have been moved to focus on the child’s brain instead of his life. The D. E. A. has made the alarming observation that “Many schools have more methylphenidate [Ritalin] stored on a routine basis than most pharmacies have in stock.” (Breggin, 1998, p. 249) Too many schools have added a fourth “R” to their curriculum: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and Ritalin.
It is time for the schools to take another look at their purpose and priorities. Drugs are a cheap alternative to reforming the way schools teach unusual children. Somehow we must make room for the “abnormal” kid, the one who is not sick, but different. These kids don’t need our drugs. They need our love, patience, encouragement, direction, discipline, and protection.
No one doubts the challenge schools have in dealing with children who do not fit well into the structured setting that present classrooms demand. But what is the alternative- to drug the ones who can’t or won’t conform? Is it not a possibility that we have got it all wrong, that the “abnormal” child is not diseased but a dreamer? Maybe 14 year-old Matt Scerbel, had it right when he wrote about those diagnosed as ADD:
They are dreamers. That doesn’t mean they are wrong. They just don’t fit the norm, so they are labeled and damned, labeled as ADD. So the doctors dope us up with Ritalin and control our minds with low doses of speed. The teachers pay us no mind until our minds are under control. It screws up our train of thought and makes us one-dimensional… It takes away that extra imagination and flow of the mind, hence destroying the true, purest ideas of my mind….The system should shape our education around our idiosyncratic minds, our quaint minds, our quirky minds, our curious minds…. I look forward to the day when Ritalin isn’t an answer, and every student is labeled “learner”. (“The Pyle Print,” Bethesda, Maryland ,1995.) (Breggin, 1998, p. 98)
Parents must also ask some crucial questions. When pressured to have their child medicated, they must ask: Does my child have a problem or is he subject to unrealistic expectation? If his behavior is out of control, the parents must ask how they may have failed to give the guidance their child needs. Then, if a humble and honest evaluation reveals that they have failed in certain areas, they must ask what things they can do correct the lack and help the child adapt to the world around them.
One of the popular refrains coming from the drug advocates is that is that it is not fair to make parents feel guilty about the way their children are behaving. I have two responses. First, the issue is not about parents. It is about preventing children from being harmed by a bogus diagnosis and the imposition of dangerous, toxic drugs. Second, guilt is not the issue, but, learning to improve our parenting may be.
Children need to be loved and they need to be disciplined. They need to be taught right from wrong and respect for those who are in authority over them. They need to be taught social skills and how to work within the formal structures that living together demands. They need to be taught how to handle life when it becomes hard and even threatening. They need guidance, structure, limits, and loving discipline. Most of all they need to be given hope, hope that their life has meaning and purpose and that they can learn to be productive and successful persons in the world in which they live.
Somehow, we need to make room for the “abnormal” child. Someone has said that “The wildest colts make the best horses.” History is filled with examples of men and women who were children whose unusual spirit challenged the formal structures of their schools. Many were not sick but bored. Others were free spirits who needed to harness their enthusiasm and giftedness. The sad truth is that if these “abnormal” persons were attending our schools today they would have a very good chance of being drugged into “normality.”
The bottom line is that both parents and teachers must resist being indoctrinated into believing that they cannot effectively raise and teach children in their care. They don’t need to resort to the medical management of “experts.” This intrusion of foreign interests into the sacred realm of shaping our children has huge consequences. Not only does it deprive the children of the care they need, but it also deprives the parents and teachers of the privilege they have been granted- to love and guide and shape the destiny of these precious children.
“The past twenty-five years has led to a phenomenon almost unique in history. Methodologically rigorous research indicates that ADHD and hyperactivity as “syndromes” simply do not exist. We have invented a disease, given its medical sanction, and must now disown it. The major question is how we go about destroying the monster we have created. It is not easy to do this and to save face, another reason why physicians and many researchers with years of funding and an academic reputation to protect are reluctant to believe the data.” –Diane McGuiness, professor of psychology, 1989 (Breggin, 1998, p. 179)
We have learned from the actions of the Pharmaceutical Complex that negotiations and scientific evidence will not alter their commitment to push the drugging of our children. They have lobbied against any attempt to bring transparency to their research. They have invested large sums of money into the APA and other consumer advocates like CHADD and NAMI, to be their spokesmen. They have sued researchers and institutions that have dared to point out their faulty and deceptive practices in the laboratory. They have fought in courts all attempts to hold them accountable for the adverse effects their drugs have caused, often settling out of court when it looked like they would lose and gain harmful publicity. When fined by the government for illegal practices, they have paid millions of dollars in fines and gone happily on their way. After all, they have billions of dollars in their coffers.
So, don’t expect Big Pharma to change unless it is forced to. That is why several concerned critics have initiated class-action suits against this bastion of unethical and unsafe practices. If the cost is large enough maybe they will change. If not, public awareness is our only hope. (Breggin, 2005, p. 54)
The complicity of the psychiatrist profession may be even harder to justify. Their whole reason for existence is to help hurting people. Unfortunately, the APA and its associates have allowed profit and pride to cloud their motives and methods. Instead of bringing hope, they are inflicting pain. They are locking their clients into a life time of ever- deepening, emotional, physical and spiritual problems. You would think that after thirty years of failing to establish a proof that ADHD is biologically-based, these professional “scientists” would seriously reconsider their commitment to drug therapy. Perhaps some will.
As we have seen, the schools are a key player in both the diagnosis of ADHD and the distribution of its main solution, Ritalin. It would be unfair not to recognize that they are faced with a lot of pressure today to produce higher performance among their students. Financial restraints have increased class size and decreased resources. Consequently, they are faced with hard decisions over this matter. This one may be one of the hardest and most crucial: “Is the dispensing of a drug for the purpose of bringing order to the classroom ever justified when it causes one student to suffer?” It would seem that the welfare of the individual student, the one who is not like the rest, the one who causes disruption, the one who exhibits unusual spontaneity, is just as important as the rest of the students. Is it possible that our desire for conformity is endangering and stifling the different, but gifted among us? Are we in danger of forgetting the value of just one life?
Dr. Breggin has rightly written: “Nothing measures the quality of a society better than how it treats its children. Nothing predicts the future of a society better than how it nurtures and educates its children.” (Breggin, 1991, p. 269)
If he is right, then our society is in trouble. We are living in a day when life has become too cheap. The sacredness of human being is no longer a given. Principles have given way to pragmatics. Technology has replaced theology. Power and profit have replaced compassion and caring. Consequently, our vulnerable and voiceless children are too often treated like trash rather than treasure. This is just wrong! It is time for a people who claim to love Jesus, to love like Jesus. He went against the culture of his day to seek and save the outcasts and most needy. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and forbid them not,“ (Luke 18:16) Every child is created by God. Every child is loved by Jesus. Every child needs to be loved and protected by us. This terrible tragedy must be confronted and stopped.
Hopefully, this paper will provide parents with the information and the confidence to stand up against the powerful forces that would use and abuse their children for profit or convenience. The promise of improved academics never justifies the flooding of our children’s brains with toxic drugs. This fight is not about science or education, but about the joy and the hope of our little ones. Let us, the Church of Jesus Christ, stand up and band together to put an end to this evil attack upon our children. We can enter this battle with the assurance that Jesus Christ is with us in this battle. “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.”
Breggin, Peter., M.D. Toxic Psychiatry (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991)
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_______ “What People Need to Know About the Drug Treatment of Children”, This is Madness Too. Newness, Craig, Guy Holmes, Cailzie Dunn, Ed. (Ross-on Wye, UK: PCCS Books, LTG., 2005)
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