Dads Against the Divorce Industry

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Talking Back to Ritalin – What doctors aren’t telling you about stimulants for children

Letter to Dr. Laura:

Recently you requested input for a new book you're writing on Ten Stupid Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Children's Lives. I know there are many serious problems you want to address arising from lack of parenting, loss of morality, and breakdown of the family. There is another one, however, that I wanted to bring to your attention and hope I may be able to persuade you to champion. From my pediatrician's perspective, among the many destructive things we are doing to our children, perpetuating the myth of ADD/ADHD ranks very high.

Please read a book published earlier this year by Peter Breggin, M.D. entitled Talking Back to Ritalin & What doctors aren't telling you about stimulants for children. Some three million children in this country daily take methylphenidate or Ritalin, a drug very similar to cocaine in chemical composition and effect, on the totally false premise that they have a "brain disorder." As Dr. Breggin explains in his book, there is not a shared of evidence that any such disorder exists, but lots of people, including pharmaceutical manufacturers, pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, and schools, are making tons of money pushing drugs on children.

Children are labeled ADD/ADHD and told they are defective on the basis of nothing more than symptoms rated on a subjective scale. An often overlooked fact is that tow adults "rating" a child will come up with totally different assessments. The spurious "diagnosis" is made on the basis of multiple vague complaints like "Fails to finish things he/she starts, Can't concentrate, Can't pay attention for long. Daydreams or gets lost in his/her thoughts, Difficulty following directions, Messy work, Inattentive, Easily distracted, Can't sit still, restless, or hyperactive, Fidgets, Impulsive or acts without thinking, Talks out of turn, Talks too much." Based on things you've said on your show about your childhood, it's possible that if you were in school now, you might be labeled ADD! Certainly we know that Einstein would have been.

The constellation of behaviors (excess energy, fidgeting, and lack of interest) said to make up this fictitious disorder are an effect, not a cause. They are a reaction to conflict, boredom, and a failure to meet the needs of the child. Many times this behavior stems from the issues you deal with daily on your show - absent parents, divorce, abuse, drugs, violence, etc. It's much easier, however, for adults to label the child the problem rather than confront their own responsibility in creating or perpetuating the hostile or inappropriate environment the child struggles with.

Ritalin and the other drugs that are prescribed make children more docile and more compliant because they are spaced out on powerful psycho-active drugs. Every one of these drugs has the potential for severe toxicity including psychosis, which is well documented in the literature. As you may know from many media reports, school children are snorting and shooting up Ritalin, a chemical cousin of amphetamine or speed, to get high, and it's a favorite black market drug.

What disorder do you know of that is diagnosed on the basis of symptoms? We might as well call a combination of headaches, stomach aches, and muscle aches and pains a disorder. Furthermore, these symptoms change depending on the situation the child is in. What kind of a "disorder" is it that manifests only in certain teachers' classes, when a certain parent is or is not around, and that allows a child to play complex Nintendo games for five hours but prevents him or her from completing a math assignment or paying attention in geography class?

What sort of a disorder is it that has been "cured" by hypnosis, visualization, magnets, biofeedback, inner ear retraining with high frequency sounds, acupuncture, change of school, change of teacher, change of seat, Feingold diet, homeopathy, craniosacral therapy, social skills training, family counseling, remarriage, different approaches to parenting and discipline, and prayer?

Please read Dr. Breggin's book. I know that as a professional of great integrity, you're always open to new learning. I sense from things you've said on your show that you have had doubts about the reality of ADD/ADHD. I think you will find abundant proof that it does not exist, but that the diagnosis and treatment of this non-entity is doing irreparable harm to our precious children. I can think of few stupider things being done by organized medicine and bought into by parents which is messing up so many children's lives. I'm enclosing for your information a summary of points made in Dr. Breggin's book.

I'm also faxing you two wonderful articles on techniques for dealing wisely, effectively, humorously, and creatively with kids. I have no idea what our book will be like, but you may find a place to include these marvelous tips.

Bless you for the courage you show us daily in what you do.


Nora C. Porter, M.D.

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