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RITALIN: Violence Against Boys

Many people ignore it when their school authorities drug their children into insensibility in order to "calm them down." This article tells why it's wrong:

The Massachusetts News Prints Scathing Review of Ritalin. See:

Have you noticed that most of the children that school authorities and child protection services are boys? One of the most important thinkers of our time, Peter Breggin, MD, as defined this scenario: "I have coined the term iatrogenic helplessness and denial (IHAD) to designate the guiding principle of biopsychiatric interventions. It describes how the biological psychiatrist uses authoritarian techniques, enforced by brain-disabling interventions, to produce increased helplessness and dependency on the part of the patient. Iatrogenic helplessness and denial include the patient's and the doctor's mutual denial of the damaging impact of the treatment, as well as their mutual denial of the patient's underlying psychological and situational problems. Overall, iatrogenic helplessness and denial account for the frequency with which psychiatry has been able to utilize brain-damaging technologies, such as electroshock and psychosurgery, as well as toxic medications."

"Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry," page 11

And now here's the article from The Massachusetts News:


Drug is being used to sedate active, young boys

November 1--If Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer were in a school in Massachusetts today, they'd be drugged with Ritalin, according to many psychiatrists and other experts. The drug is being used to sedate active, young boys because the teachers are unable to relate to them. It is in the same psychoactive category as cocaine. Somewhere between 29,000 and 48,000 children in Massachusetts' public schools are operating under the influence of Ritalin -- and they are almost all boys. The income to the drug company is between $30 to $60 per month per medicated child.

A prominent psychiatrist tells Massachusetts News that one of the key problems for children today, which may be causing the increase in the number of children diagnosed as mentally ill, is the increase in fatherless families. He is Dr. Peter Breggin, director of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology in Bethesda, Maryland, who published an article in The Boston Globe last month on its editorial page under the headline, "Kids Are Suffering Legal Drug Abuse." However, it did not mention the gender problem. Breggin wrote:

"In a society that's supposed to accept and even value differences, drugging shy children reflects an extreme of enforced conformity... We are the first adults to handle the generation gap through the wholesale drugging of our children. We may be guaranteeing that future generations will be relatively devoid of people who think critically, raise painful questions, generate productive conflicts, or lead us to new spiritual and political insights." [Surprise, surprise. -RT]

Dr. Breggin tells Massachusetts News that most children who have been labeled as having "Attention Deficit Disorder," don't get enough attention from their fathers. The parents may be divorced. Or the dads are preoccupied with their work or other things. "The 'cure' for these children is more rational and loving attention from their dads," says Breggin. "Young people are nowadays so hungry for the attention of a father that it can come from any male adult. Seemingly impulsive, hostile groups of children will calm down when a caring, relaxed and firm adult male is around."

Many of these children are receiving Ritalin from their school nurse. It is supposed to help these hyperactive youngsters focus on their work. Yet whether the drug is even needed isn't clear; doctors and scientists are split on the issue. And many critics worry that mothers and fathers, schools and doctors may be medicating kids who only need traditional discipline and love -- not a pill.

New York Times Writes About Massachusetts' Problem

The New York Times wrote a story earlier this year about the problem that these drugs are causing for overworked school nurses in Massachusetts. Janet Douglass, a director of the School Health Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, said that in a recent visit to a nearby elementary school she had been struck by the overall level of medication. "I think they give out more psychotropic medication than a psych hospital did when I did psych," she said. "Not just Ritalin, but heavy-duty psychiatric medications."

The Times reported that a survey of Boston schools showed that the nurses had given about 200,000 doses of medication. "But school officials said the survey was imperfect and the actual number of doses was probably higher." The exact number of Massachusetts children on Ritalin isn't known because no one apparently keeps track of the prescriptions except the drug makers, and they're not talking. [No kidding. -RT]

Abuse in New England Prep Schools

The abuse of Ritalin as a recreational drug is also a problem. It was first seen in New England prep schools, according to Dr. Eric Heiligenstein, head of psychiatry for the University of Wisconsin Health Services. "Ritalin abuse was first noticed at New England prep schools where access is easy because so many students have Ritalin prescriptions -- often not warranted by medical need." According to the DEA, at least one in 30 Americans between ages 5 and 19 has a Ritalin prescription.

Because it has nearly the same chemical makeup as cocaine and speed, Ritalin is often abused. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that Ritalin "ranks in the 'Top 10' controlled drugs stolen from doctors and pharmacies." Kids crush the Ritalin pills into powder and snort it or inject it. Last fall, four youths allegedly stole 27 bottles of pills from the nurse's office at Westford Academy, reported the Boston Herald. Sixteen of the bottles contained Ritalin. Other bottles held the depressant Lorazepam. In 1996, a girl at Duxbury High School overdosed on Ritalin and was hospitalized. With more public schools handing out Ritalin to more and more kids, there's more drug abuse. Some students even sell their Ritalin prescriptions.

A Harvard undergraduate, "David Green," says that he frequently snorted Ritalin to help speed through his homework. "In all honesty, I haven't written a paper without Ritalin since my junior year in high school," said Green. "I even wrote my Harvard essay on it. It keeps you up when you're tired, and makes you much more aware of what you're doing. Although there are certain risks involved, I think it's worth it." Another Harvard student, Nick Grossman, said that he knew many Ritalin abusers at Harvard. "It was largely a prep school drug, and it spread out from there," he said. "I know a lot of people who do it."

A recent study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley -- a study of 500 children over 26 years -- found that Ritalin is basically a "gateway" drug to other drugs, in particular, cocaine. Lead researcher Nadine Lambert, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, concluded that Ritalin "makes the brain more susceptible to the addictive power of cocaine and doubles the risk of abuse."

Dr. Breggin says: "Our society viewed with loathing those who 'pushed' stimulant drugs on children. Yet today, there are more children taking Ritalin and amphetamine from doctors than ever received them from illegal pushers."

The Problem -- Not The Solution

Dr. Breggin tells Massachusetts News: "These drugs can make you psychotic. They can cause the same problems they're supposed to treat -- inattention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior." Meanwhile, other sources show that the number of Ritalin users nationwide keeps going up every year -- about 4 million kids today, up from 1 million in 1990. Production of Ritalin is way up, as well -- a 700% increase since 1990, according to the New York Times.

Dr. Breggin, author of "Talking Back to Ritalin" and co-author of "Talking Back to Prozac," says that, "Ritalin does not correct biochemical imbalances -- it causes them. Pediatricians, parents and teachers are not aware of these hazards because a large body of research demonstrating the ill effects of this drug has been ignored and suppressed in order to encourage the sale of the drug. Parents and teachers and even doctors have been badly misled by drug company marketing practices. Drug companies have targeted children as a big market likely to boost profits -- and children are suffering as a result."

More than 90% of Ritalin's market is in the United States, which says something about how Ritalin is viewed by health officials in other countries, said Breggin. Ritalin was banned in Sweden in 1968 because it was abused. Ritalin is rarely prescribed in Britain. In March, the United Nations advised the World Health Organization to investigate the use of Ritalin.

Causing Tragic Violence?

Ritalin and related drugs pushed in public schools are being watched more closely now for tragic reasons. While a direct link between violent behavior and the use of Ritalin has not been proven, observers have concerns. Consider the following:

Yale researchers, as published in the March 1991 "Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology," found in their study of Prozac at least one 12-year-old who started having nightmares. What about? The boy dreamed of killing his classmates at school until he himself was shot. The researchers took the boy off Prozac and he recovered. Then they put him back on the drug, apparently thinking that the anti-depressant could not have caused the nightmares. Once drugged again, the boy started to have acute suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

The Yale researchers don't talk about this now, said Breggin. "Ritalin Basics According to the PDR," the Physician's Desk Reference, "Ritalin is a mild central nervous system stimulant and is used in the treatment of attention deficit disorders." The PDR warns that patients with a history of drug addiction or alcoholism should be given Ritalin with caution "because such patients may increase dosage on their own." PDR further states that, "Long-term abuse can lead to tolerance and mental dependence with varying degrees of abnormal behavior."

Ritalin side effects may include an inability to fall asleep and stay asleep, as well as nervousness. Other side effects include: loss of appetite, abdominal pain, weight loss and abnormally fast heartbeat. Some of the less common side effects include: chest pain, dizziness, headache, hives, jerking, pulse changes, skin rash, Tourette's syndrome, severe and multiple twitching and writhing movements.

Ritalin should not be used in children under six years old, says the PDR, because the "safety and effectiveness in this age-group have not been established." PDR goes on to state that "suppression of growth has been reported with the long-term use of stimulants (the category of which Ritalin is included)."

Terrible side effects

Dr. Breggin is more blunt. In his 1998 book, "Talking Back to Ritalin," he lists the following potential side effects of the drug:

The Food and Drug Administration classifies Ritalin (methylphenidate) as a Schedule II substance. These substances include: amphetamines, cocaine, morphine, opium and barbiturates. Ritalin is more regulated in other countries compared to the United States. America consumes five times as much Ritalin as the rest of world combined. In addition to the ongoing investigation by the World Health Organization, the U.N. International Narcotics Control Board has issued two official warnings about America's apparent dependence on Ritalin.

While about 4 million U.S. kids regularly take Ritalin, the Drug Enforcement Administration estimates that about 8 million kids and adults will be on the drug in 2000. (About 90% of all Ritalin prescriptions are for kids.) The average Ritalin script runs between $30 and $60 a month. Most health insurance plans provide coverage for Ritalin and Attention Deficit Disorder treatment. [All emphasis mine. -RT]

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