The dangers of Ritalin...
“The minds of your children are being destroyed and distorted by the use of mind-controlling agents from hell. And I say from hell, My children, because it is the diabolical plan of satan to control the minds of your children.” - Our Lady of the Roses, October 6, 1977
“Your children are being educated for the use of these drugs.” - Our Lady of the Roses, June 18, 1987
Dr. Peter Breggin, one of the foremost experts on the dangers of prescription drugs, writes:In the 1970s, there was a public uproar, outraged books, and congressional hearings about one hundred thousand children being prescribed Ritalin. Now hardly anyone remembers that controversy. Instead, millions of children are taking stimulant drugs with hardly any outcry at all.
Estimates vary widely, but the total number of children on Ritalin has been estimated between 6 and 8 million children or more in 2000. The United States accounts for 90% of the world’s consumption of Ritalin, which prompted the International Narcotics Control Board to issue a warning in February of 1995 which deplored the fact that “10-12 percent of all boys between the ages of 6 and 14 in the United States have been diagnosed as having ADD and are being treated with methylphenidate [Ritalin].” The board raised concerns about doctors’ seeking “easy” solutions to “behavioral problems which may have complex causes.” It also drew attention to the “promotional practices” that were leading to the overprescription of Ritalin in our country.
ADHD and Ritalin
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the “disorder” that supposedly accounts for so many children having trouble in school and posing disciplinary problems to adults. Ritalin is promoted as the “cure” for this condition, on the basis that ADHD is a “biochemical imbalance” in the brain that is fixed by the “magic bullet” of Ritalin. But is ADHD a real physical disease? Can it be scientifically identified?
According to Dr. Peter Breggin and many, many scientists, ADHD cannot be physically identified:There is no physical test that can detect the supposed existence of ADHD. There are no specific physical symptoms associated with it. The ADHD diagnosis is made by comparing the child’s behaviors with a description of the disorder as defined and accepted by experts and practitioners in the field.
Dr. Breggin also writes:There are no objective diagnostic criteria for ADHD—no physical symptoms, no neurological signs, and no blood tests. Despite claims to the contrary, there are no brain scan findings and no biochemical imbalances. No physical tests can be done to verify that a child has ADHD.
Gerald Golden, a professor of pediatrics and neurology, put it bluntly: “Attempts to define a biological basis for ADHD have been consistently unsuccessful. The neuroanatomy of the brain, as demonstrated by neuroimaging studies, is normal. No neuropatholical substrate has been demonstrated….”
In a scientific review, Diane McGuinness called Attention Deficit Disorder “the emperor’s new clothes.” In The Hyperactive Child and Stimulant Drugs, Roger Freeman labelled the state of the art and practice in the field surrounding ADHD “a mess.” He went on to note that this area is “characterized by rarely challenged myths, ill-defined boundaries, and a strangely seductive attractiveness.”
With facts such as these, many people have concluded with Dr. Breggin that there is “no evidence that ADHD is a valid clinical entity associated with physical dysfunction of the brain.”
How does a child become diagnosed as ADHD? What are the criteria for such a diagnosis? This is a shocker. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV), considered the “bible” of psychiatric diagnosis, the entire criteria for making a diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder is the following:A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months, during which four (or more) of the following are present: (1) often loses temper, (2) often argues with adults, (3) often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules, (4) often deliberately annoys people, (5) often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehaviors, (6) is often touchy or easily annoyed by others, (7) is often angry and resentful, (8) is often spiteful or vindictive.
No physical cause is described but only behavioral conflict and anger. Dr. Breggin notes that the above diagnosis is merely eight ways to say a child is angry.
If ADHD is not a medical entity, then why is Ritalin so heavily prescribed? Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics, writes, “There’s either a strange plague of hyperactivity in the U.S., or we’ve got a lot of folks prescribing Ritalin as a psychopharmocological nanny.” Dr. Breggin hits the nail on the head: “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has one over-riding purpose—to put a medical veneer on the use of medication to control the behavior of children.”
Drug companies and Ritalin
It should alert any parent’s attention that, with virtually no understanding of the long-term effects of stimulant drugs such as Ritalin, these drugs were heavily advertised by the drug companies for the treatment of problem children. There are enormous sums of money involved in the development and marketing of prescription drugs. Leon Eisenberg, a professor of psychiatry and social medicine at Harvard Medical School, says that the sale of Ritalin and other stimulant drugs for children are “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.”
Sedating effect of Ritalin
Dr. Breggin notes that “In today’s society, the drugging of children to control their behavior is viewed as a medical activity, but it has little or nothing to do with the genuine practice of medicine.” He also warns that Ritalin is being used to medicate children into submission. This observation is similar to that made in the book Not in Our Genes, which reported that in the use of Ritalin,… higher doses simply result in sedation—yet in school use it is the higher doses that tend to be employed. This makes the drug yet one more version of the chemical straightjacket, ensuring that the teacher has an easier task in maintaining classroom order, but only by doping out the children who would otherwise make it harder.
Dr. Breggin accuses our school system of waging a “war on children” in which schools are selectively suppressing some of the most intelligent, brave, energetic, and creative children. He writes:There’s a war against children going on in our schools and the most outstanding of our children are the first to be targeted for control by drugs. We’re using drugs the way gardeners use herbicides to destroy weeds—except these toxins are aimed at the flowering of our children. Schools are not the only institutions that encourage the drugging of children. Controlling children with psychiatric medications is rampant in foster homes and in any institutional setting, such as juvenile detention centers and prisons, where docility is valued.
He also accuses indiscriminate use of dangerous drugs on children as a form of “technological child abuse” and laments the fact that many of his colleagues in the medical profession could stem the tide of this abuse, but have not:The psychiatric diagnosing and drugging of children should be viewed as a form of technological child abuse—conformity enforced by physical suppression of the brain. I do not blame the millions of parents and teachers who have been hoodwinked by organized psychiatry and medicine. Instead, I hold my colleagues responsible for this national catastrophe, especially those mental health professionals who enjoy leadership roles in professional associations, universities, government agencies, and industry. I call upon them to find the courage to stand up on behalf of children. The combined efforts of a relatively small but ethical fraction of the health profession could stem the tide of medical child abuse.
Ritalin: a dangerous drug
There is no evidence that Ritalin has any beneficial long-term effects. In a study done by R. Weiss and his scientific colleagues, hyperactive children who had been treated with Ritalin for up to five years, and compared them to similarly hyperactive children who had not had drug treatment. They fully expected to see a beneficial drug effect. But they reported “no differences in adolescence between the drugged and the undrugged children in school marks, in number of grades failed, in amount of hyperactivity, or in antisocial behavior. The problems of organically hyperactive children seemed to linger on, whether or not they had been drugged.”
Ritalin has been touted as a safe, non-addictive drug. Unfortunately, both claims are false. As Dr. Breggin points out, “It is not a speculation but a fact demonstrated in thousands of laboratory studies in normal animals: All psychiatric drugs produce severe biochemical imbalances and related abnormalities by interferring with the normal brain function.” He also writes that Ritalin and other stimulants:… do not ‘normalize’ the brain; they render it abnormal. This cannot be over-emphasized: Stimulants produce pathological malfunctions in the child’s brain. Whenever these drugs have any direct effect on the child’s mind or behavior, they do so by disrupting brain function. In short, effective doses of Ritalin always cause malfunctions in the brain.
This drug-induced brain disruption is the “robotic effect” sometimes observed in children taking Ritalin.
Regarding the erroneous claims that Ritalin is non-addictive, it should be noted that “Under the Controlled Substances Act, the FDA classifies Ritalin in Schedule II—the most addictive class of drugs in medical use. It shares Schedule II with other stimulants (Dexedrine and cocaine) and with narcotics (morphine).” The International Narcotics Control Board in 1996 declared: “Methlyphenidate’s [Ritalin’s] pharmacological effects are essentially the same as those of amphetamine and methamphetamines. The abuse of methlyphenidate can lead to tolerance and severe psychological dependence. Psychotic episodes, violent and bizarre behavior have been reported.” Furthermore, the International Narcotics Control Board reported that in 1996 “emergency room visits by children age 10-14 involving Ritalin intoxication have now reached the same level as those for cocaine. This indicates escalating abuse of this highly addictive drug.”
A little known fact is that drug addicts are frequently using Ritalin. By 1973 G.S. Omenn noted:Illicit traffic in Ritalin has increased among narcotic addicts… Those on Methadone appreciate the “up” effect of Ritalin. Those on heroin can prolong the duration of action of a given dose of heroin by concommitantly taking Ritalin… In Chicago’s Cook County Prison, Ritalin is called “West Coast” by the heroin addicts.
Other physical effects of Ritalin include brain shrinkage, according to a 1986 report by Henry A. Nasrallah:A team led by Henry A. Nasrallah (1986) from Ohio State found shrinkage of the brain more than 50% of twenty-four young adults with hyperactivity since childhood. Shrinkage—or the more technical term, atrophy—indicates that brain tissue has become withered and reduced in volume.
Ritalin has also been proven to effect growth in children:Dozens of studies have demonstrated that Ritalin disrupts the normal cycle of growth hormone production in the body. By the mid 1970s, the effect of Ritalin in disrupting growth hormone levels in most subjects was already “unequivocal.” The adverse effect on growth hormone is so regular and predictable that it can be used as a measure of whether or not the Ritalin is active in the child’s body.
Additionally, Ritalin use can affect future career choices of children. The Department of Defense has an official policy of turning away all recruits who have taken Ritalin or other similar drugs after the age of twelve. But Dr. Breggin’s warning about Ritalin are not based merely on compromised career choices; he considers Ritalin a toxic agent that should be illegal: “I believe it is abusive and I think it should be illegal. It harms the brain of the child and undermines any hope of a peaceful, loving resolution of the conflicts the child is having with other people.”
Parents, teachers and Ritalin
Dr. Breggin brings up a very important, but often answered, question regarding the ADHD diagnosed child. As was noted above, the ADHD diagnosis appears to be eight ways to say the child in question is angry. But why is the child angry? He says “In my own experience, extreme behaviors in children are always matched by extreme deprivations, provocations, or confusions in their lives.” The curious thing about the ADHD diagnosis is that the crux of the problem is put entirely on the child, as if the child had no external problems or valid reasons for his anger. But this is over-simplistic. In fact, it is very suspicious that parents, teachers and others are left out of the “diagnostic loop.”
William Stableford (1976) and a group from the University of Vermont Department of Psychology addressed the impact of giving drugs on the parents themselves: “Handing a child a pill each day is a simple task, and it allows the parents the comfort of placing the explanation for their child’s hyperactive behavior on his physiological makeup. They are therefore absolved of any responsibility.”
A much more realistic approach is to view the child’s behavioral problem as a combination of problems within the child and caregivers alike (including parents and teachers). If parents are guilty of failing to give necessary attention and loving discipline to their child, labeling the child with a “biological disorder” gets them off the hook, but with tragic consequences for the child: “If we begin instead with a conviction that our child has a biological disorder, we may temporarily stave off guilt—but we also give up responsibility. We sacrifice our perceptions of reality—and potentially our child’s well-being—to feeling good about ourselves.” Creating diagnostic categories for troublesome children tends to remove blame from the failure of parents and schools, and throw responsibility entirely on a fictitious “chemical imbalance” within the child. As Dr. Breggin observes, such an attitude “is good for the business of doctoring and the business of selling drugs. It may make life easier for some parents and teachers. But it is very bad for children.”
Professor Leon Eisenberg of Harvard Medical School, in an interview by the Boston Globe, believes that such drugging of children is unethical: “This whole trend towards giving pills to children as a solution to everything, particularly in the absence of evidence that they work, is fundamentally unethical.” A child with disciplinary and emotional problems is certainly a reason for concern “but it’s no reason to diagnose and to drug the child.” Dr. Breggin claims that labelling such children as ADHD is merely a “diagnostic sleight of hand” that blames the source of the conflict entirely on the child and puts “the child in a category that requires no further exploration or understanding on our part.”
Dr. Breggin give an analogy that is quite easy to understand: people will react to adverse physical conditions, such as severe air pollution, depending upon their own physical condition. The infirm, the especially young or old, will more quickly be affected by air pollution than a healthy individual would. So too, children are much more susceptible to problems in family and school conditions than are adults. If the family and school are providing a “toxic environment” for the child’s growth, the child will usually be the first to emotionally and spiritually “wilt.” Dr. Breggin encourages all parents and caregivers to take back responsibility for our children and reclaim them from the so-called “experts” and “dedicate ourselves to providing children with the adult relationships that they need ”and reject the easy pattern of diagnosing children which is “robbing them of the moral, social, and spiritual context of their lives.”
The stresses on children these days are innumerable. Separation or divorce is the single most damaging circumstance in a child’s life, a factor affecting the majority of children nowadays. In 1970, 90 percent of children lived with both parents. By 1997, the figure had dropped to 64 percent. So to simplistically attribute an emotionally and behaviorally troubled child as “chemically imbalanced” without acknowledging the existence of other real and more likely causes for the child’s unruly behavior may indicate a form of denial present in parents and teachers alike. For this reason, Dr. Breggin says we must utterly reject the idea that all these problems are merely attributed to “our children’s brains or bodies”:The most despairing and violent of our children reflect the underlying disorder of the society: the alienation and abandonment of our children. We must utterly reject the idea that the problem lies in our children’s brains or bodies, or that we need to focus on diagnosing individual children. Instead we need to identify the breakdown of relationship with our children in our homes, schools, and community, and then to come together as adults dedicated to making ourselves and our institutions more able to serve the needs of our children.
Sweeping children under the “drug rug” rather than attending to children’s individual needs is not the answer. Too often, society has “turned to medicating them into silence so that we don’t have to deal with their pain.” Dr. Breggin, who has been frequently successful in working with such emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children, emphasizes the fact that:Psychiatric drugs simply subdue children’s signs of suffering. Suppressing our children’s emotional signals with toxic agents not only harms them, it delays our recognition of the larger environmental stressors in the family, school, and community.
Dr. Breggin also firmly believes that parents “should never allow anyone, not even medical doctors, to give their children psychoactive (mind-altering) drugs for the control of emotions or behavior.” Real solutions will not be found in drugging children into submission.
It is said that the moral health of a country can be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens. Given such unethical treatment of children, our country appears to be spiritually very, very sick. It is well to ponder these words by Dr. Breggin:The drugging of children for behavior control should raise profound spiritual, philosophical, and ethical questions about ourselves as adults and about how we view the children in our care. Society ignores these critical questions at great peril to itself, to its values, and to the well-being of its children.
Directives from Heaven... http://www.tldm.org/directives/directives.htm
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Worldwide use of ADHD drugs nearly triples, MSNBC, March 7, 2007
Our enlightened schools: Ritalin replaces spanking, WorldNetDaily, July 29, 2006
FDA: 51 attention drug patients died, Reuters, February 8, 2006
Forced mental screening hits roadblock in House, WorldNetDaily, September 9, 2004
Ritalin: Violence against boys Massachusetts News
The Ritalin Racketeers and Their Chemical Lobotomies - Part I interview with Dr. Peter Breggin
Teen says antidepressants led to slayings, My Way News, December 4, 2004
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Revised: December 19, 2012
 Dr. Peter R. Breggin, Reclaiming Our Children: A Healing Plan for a Nation in Crisis, 273-274.
 Dr. Peter R. Breggin, Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors aren’t telling you about stimulants for your children, 121.
 Ibid., 144.
 Gerald Golden, “Role of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in learning disabilities,” Seminars in Neurology, 11, 35-41.
 Diane McGuinness, 1989, “The emperor’s new clothes, animal ‘pharm’, and other fiction. In S. Fisher and R.P. Greenberg (eds.), The limits of biological treatments for psychological distress, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 151-188.
 Roger Freeman, The Hyperactive Child and Stimulant Drugs, 5.
 Dr. Peter Breggin, Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors aren’t telling you about stimulants for your children, 41.
 Dr. Peter R. Breggin, Reclaiming Our Children: A Healing Plan for a Nation in Crisis, 121.
 K. Murphy, August 25, 1997, “Why Johnny can’t sit still,” Business Week, p. 194E4.
 Dr. Peter Breggin, Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors aren’t telling you about stimulants for your children, 140.
 M. Leonard, “Children are the new hot market for anti-depressants,” Boston Globe, May 25, 1997, p. D1.
 Dr. Peter Breggin, Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors aren’t telling you about stimulants for your children, 117.
 R. L. Sprague and E.K. Sleator, “Methylphenidate in Hyperkinetic Children: Differences in Dose Effects on Learning and Social Behaviour,” Science 198 (1977): 1274-1276.
 R.C. Lewontin, Steven Rose, and Leon J. Kamin, Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology, and Human Nature, 192-193.
 Dr. Peter R. Breggin, Reclaiming Our Children: A Healing Plan for a Nation in Crisis, 145.
 Ibid., 279.
 G. Weiss, E. Kruger, V. Danielson, and M. Elmann, “Effect of Long-term Treatment of Hyperactive Children with Methylphenidate [Ritalin],” Canadian Medical Association Journal 112 (1975): 159-165.
 R.C. Lewontin, Steven Rose, and Leon J. Kamin, Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology, and Human Nature, 182.
 Dr. Peter R. Breggin, Reclaiming Our Children: A Healing Plan for a Nation in Crisis, 140.
 Dr. Peter Breggin, Talking Back to Ritalin: What Doctors aren’t telling you about stimulants for your children, 121.